Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ever been to California?

Living in a country different to the one you grew up in is an interesting, enriching experience. Sometimes it is also lonely, depressing and isolating. Depends on your particular situation, your attitude, what you are experiencing at the moment and especially the people in your environment. There are different stages of acceptance of your 'lot' and a lot of adjusting and compromise involved too. Someone recently said that 'our banishment is self-imposed' and I really like that. We did choose in a roundabout way to be here, simply by falling in love with someone who had their roots elsewhere. We have since chosen to stay and make it work as well, in spite of the obstacles. Language, culture, tradition, mentality and being the only representative of your immediate family in a far away place covers the main obstacles, but there are many more, unexplainable. So you hurdle these or get stuck on them, sometimes for a long time. Some things you never get used to and don't necessarily need to. There is a certain amount of fitting in that you are forced to do, even if the only real reason behind it is to not always stick out like a sore thumb and to have to answer 20 questions every time from those who find your ways bizarre. But this fitting in is a conundrum (sp? too lazy to look it up) because take it too far and you've lost your identity. Sometimes you think with aching heart of the things you grew up knowing and know that your children will never have the same relationship with those things as you had. Yesterday we were in a candy store and the boys wanted to use some of their pocket money to pick out a few sweets. On our way out of the store (which did not carry swedish fish mind you) I spotted some Oreo's and said, oh look, they have Oreos! My enthusiasm was obviously not shared (I am not a particular fan of Oreo's, just don't see them too often here) by the boys, who all responded with 'what are Oreo's?' I was sort of stunned for a minute--hold on here, a bunch of kids who don't even know what an Oreo is?? How unamerican can you get!? So that started all of this reflection and I have been thinking about it since. Of course it won't change their lives if they never eat or even see an Oreo, but now and again it dawns on me how different they are growing up than I did. What are going to be their fond childhood memories? Will they have a soft spot for my home country and the memories that I have shared and traditions I have tried to make traditions in our family, even though the people around us do not do these things? I hope so. I hope they will love wherever they end up, and have an enthusiasm for appreciating other cultures, no matter how strange or different. Last night, Liam had a nightmere and was up in our room. I usually make them go potty and then send them back to bed. This is what my mom did for us, and I guess it stuck. So I had tucked him in (I couldn't very well say go get in bed with Lisa like mom used to say) and he said to me on my way out of the room, 'mom, have you ever been to California?' Yes, Liam, I just said, and laid awake for a long time, turning beautiful, precious memories of said place over and over in my mind.


r.a.d.e tarves said...

My big sis Julie will say 'Amen' to this post Heidi! Just want to thank you for 'helping' her over there..There are times when I can't do much, cause I don't understand. (Since I only, right back to town I grew up!!) And I might add - that even though it's a big sacrifice , we're real glad someone's taking care of dear little Donneloye conv.! Hope to see you guys there this Summer! Hugs, a.

Jewels said...

Ok...I'm not sure whether to smile or cry! I hear you Heidi and understand only too well!

Extrem4 said...

I have been to California too. I have also been asked by your mom if I have gone stinky before being sent off to bed. I think there was one time I got revenge in Napa by peeing on her curtains during a early morning sleep walking stroll on one of our visits.

Mommabelle said...

Oh my goodness, your post made me sit back and think and then feel guilty. Ha! I know my husband is an Aussie, but I don't often think about it in the specific ways you mentioned. Life get's so busy raising a family. So, taking my guilty thoughts, I went asked him about how he feels. It's a little different for him, in that he speaks the same language (huge) and people here absolutly love Australia and his accent(I can't hear it anymore), which may not always be the case when you are an expat American, and you have to jump that hurdle on some level with some people. There are a few things that he feels the kids miss out on. Being more relaxed is one of them. It is always hard to have family so far away.
I also think being male makes a difference too. It's us women who always keep traditions and are spending more hands on time raising children.
Thanks for the thoughts!
It's nice to check in here. Your baby is so cute!!! I want another one!!!

prrrof said...

Why do I feel like closing up the computer and having a good cry?


jillybeans said...

Hi Heidi,

I think your kids have the best of both worlds, growing up in one of the most amazing countries in the world and getting to visit often and have some of the traditions of another wonderful country, thanks to you!
I wish my kids didn't know what oreos were! Yours get to have yummy swiss gutzelies instead!
I am so glad that you have chosen to stay in CH and especially Donneloye. You are so useful and needed there!
Hugs, Jillan B

Shirley said...

California has lots of good memories but Switzerland has lots of good ones too for me.
Love your memory letter and I know you weren't talking to make people feel sorry for you but I'm sure a good cry was had by all..
Con had some interesting memories too. I can't wait to come stay at their house....Love Mom

lenaya said...

You bring tears to my eyes.

Mommabelle said...

I didn't know where to answer you question about mustard greens, so putting it in here.
I mix a few in with collard greens, turnip greens, kale etc..
Then put in a pork neck or some bacon, salt and some water and cook for a couple hours. Mustartd greens are strong so I don't use too many in the mix. They are good to plant in the garden because they help keep the bugs away.

Kim said...

Oh Heidi...I loved this post. It took me a long time to find it but I love it. Yes, I've been to California too.


Hi Heidi, you don't know me but I think you know some of my mom (Donna) is a Californian living in England, my sister (Anna) is an English girl living in Switzerland and I'm in the work in Iowa...I can enter into your thoughts entirely and I'm sure my mom and sis can too!

Kristina said...

well, Heidi...i just found out that you have a webpage for your family- yippee yeah, i'll be checking it regularly!! :-)

and...this post really touched me. by growing up in France with a Canadian mom, and by now living in my mom's country (on my own), i can 100% relate to your post!!

let's keep in touch!

ps: if you're not sure who i am, ask Julie to remind you how we met ;-)