This weekend we were back in the UK for our final wedding of the year for what has been quite a hectic couple of months, nuptials wise. We have been absolutely delighted to be a part of so many wonderful celebrations and have some fabulous memories of all the weddings we’ve attended this year. This last marriage of our wedding season was a family affair and involved our basing ourselves at the fiancé’s parents and then travelling to the venue from there the night before and returning the day after.
We set off from the fiancé’s familial homestead (and in case I’m not being clear by ‘fiancé’ I am either referring to my fiancé or the imminent groom to be, I did say it was a family shindig) and our journey took us past our old neighbourhood, the lovely London borough of Greenwich, where our two-bed flat, now rented to strangers, lies. As those in the car pointed out various local markres I decided to avert my eyes and stare fixedly at the foot-well of the back passenger seat. As my fellow travellers tried to engage my attention as we passed the turning leading to our road I quietly mumbled ‘I don’t want to look’ and fervently hoped I could avoid having to explain why. Fortunately there was enough excited pre-wedding chatter to save me from having to admit the truth.
On the post-wedding return journey on Sunday morning as we again neared the approach to our old flat, the question was innocently put ‘would you like to drive past your flat?’ At this point, as nonchalantly as possible, whilst trying to be clear and audible, I again politely declined the offer. I then decided that, to be on the safe side, I would stare fixedly at my phone, in case the driver hadn’t heard and decided a drive-by was something we should do.
The desire to avoid seeing the flat I no longer live in reminded me of when I took part in a French exchange visit arranged through school when I was 13 or 14 and on my arrival the mother of my host family asked me if I wanted to call my mum.
In my best schoolgirl French I politely declined, however my best schoolgirl French was far from fluent and I could see the host mother trying to work out if I just hadn’t understood the question. In fairness my answer was probably something like ‘no thank you, I no mother call’, which I understand could be open to interpretation. Perhaps she thought I was worried they’d charge me or that I was trying to explain I’d like to call my mother but not understanding they were offering for me to do so. She eventually ascertained that I didn’t want to but now accepting that my French was enough to understand the question, she clearly couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to call my own mother and kept asking me, every day, if I wanted to call.
After a week in to the two-week exchange I thought I’d better accept the offer so as not to raise suspicions of being some sort of wayward, sociopathic, anti-familial devil creature residing in her house and corrupting her daughter. So, unwillingly, I caved and called home. My mum was pretty surprised to hear from me and instantly wondered if everything was alright, after all why else would I be calling unless something was wrong? I reassured mum, exchanged a few words, finished the call pretty quickly and then decided to bide my time, in the room they’d suggested I use for privacy during my call. I waited until what I thought host mum would think an appropriate length of time for natural daughter-mother exchanging instincts to be satiated and returned to my French family.
The reason for not wanting to call my mother, was very much the same reason for not wanting to see my flat. It isn’t that I’m an unsentimental hard-hearted wench, who couldn’t give a rat’s behind for my family or the first home I’d bought with my fiancé. It was rather the opposite, I knew that in going to France for two weeks there would be certain things about parental home life I would miss, and I knew that leaving the country there would be certain aspects of London I’d miss. For me out of sight out of mind, is something of a survival technique, I know who I am in that respect. I also know that these partings were not forever and that my best course of action is to live in the moment, get on with the current situation and perhaps occasionally indulge in the odd pondering of possible familial or architectural reunions in the not too far distant future.
Homesickness would be a possibility only if I let it and I would prefer to choose not to especially when I knew that in a mere 14 days of French exchange I’d be back in the heart of my family, and I know (or at least tell myself I know) that when (quietening that inner voice that replaces ‘when’ with ‘if’) we return to London, our lovely flat will still be standing and ready and waiting for us. In the meantime the rent is being paid, the place is being lived in and taken care of by our tenants and any concerns on that score are relieved by six monthly reports on the property condition from the managing agents.
So thank you but no, I didn’t want to call my mum right then and no, I don’t want to drive past my house right now and just in case I’m not being clear in English ‘merci, mais non’.