This post is a few months old, but I just rediscovered it in my drafts. From a few weeks after my family moved from Wellington city to Kapiti Coast.
Today four fat kererū sat in low branches on the neighbour's plum tree. They were so close. Every day tuis. For the last three mornings Alexandra has gone outside in her pyjamas to feed the birds. The two girls spent hours on the lawn making gooey 'cakes' with flour, water, food colouring and something pale and granulated in a tall glass jar with a corroded red lid. It looked healthy and we probably moved into our previous house eight years ago. This move it has floated to the top again.
I am thinking about a new dining room table.
Maggie says 'No! No new table. I like this one'.
'Too much change, huh?' I ask. She goes silent for a while.
Then quietly, 'I want to go back. Want to go back to Brooklyn'.
'I know you do. I'm sorry.
You miss the house and your friends. What else?'
I don't mean to torment her but to give her room to experience what she is experiencing. I think though I may be tormenting her.
'The park. The playground. The teachers at my school.'
'I know it's hard. And I am sorry. It will get easier'.
Maggie is homesick for the house we lived in. The house is about twice as big as our old one. It is dry and insulated. It has a garage and the girls each have their own room. But I remember homesickness. How it crushes your digestive tract and possibly your lungs as well because breathing is a bit harder. Homesickness is a weighty presence that you must lug with you.When I was travelling a bit for work it would hit me on night three. I wanted home and Joe and the girls when they came along. But as an adult I had tactics and ways to distract myself. I understood the problem and what would solve it. There was even a bit of gladness in knowing my body and mind were grounded enough to feel queasy when in flight. Maggie is seven and homesick.
Alexandra is less overtly sad but she is more grumpy than usual. Stamping her feet and being gleefully uncooperative. I think about how big feelings are. I remember hearing the idea that it is easy to dismiss children's feelings as smaller than adults' feelings because they are smaller than us. How that's wrong as their feelings are every bit as intense as ours. I heard the idea before I had kids and it struck me because I had been in that space of not taking children's emotions seriously. It rang true. My memories of childhood were full of big feelings. Now I think - imagine having the intensity of an adult's emotions in a child's body. With a child's mind not yet trained in scale or scope or perspective. How it must wrack you. I took my girls away from their home. It was more their home than mine because it was the only one they'd had. All the ritual and comfort of home was associated with our little slightly wonky cottage on a road beset with rubbish trucks.
Moving was absolutely the right thing to do. The girls play for hours outside in a new way. M's appetite has grown phenomenally - like she is now a young girl whose body moves as well as her mind. Paekākāriki has quiet streets where a child can live alongside. It has the sea and skies you can see stars in. We have places to play right outside our front and back doors. I dug up one strip of lawn where we'll plant potatoes and beans while the girls played hide and seek. They get to know the good places to hide and the really good places to hide. I get to know the sandy soil and try to figure out if I can tell those kereru apart. Instead of a mess of heavy cables and the houses across the road we see the Paekākāriki hills and the sky. We see the motorway and the railway in the distance. We see close things and faraway things which makes my heart stretch its legs a bit and take a gentle walk around. I am not homesick in the slightest. I bless the bathroom of the old house for failing to have a sound floor and prompting us, in realising the extent of the job, to disclose and sell and move.
'I know it's hard to believe', I say to my sad girl, 'but one day you'll be homesick for this place'.
(C) Copyright 2012, Mrs Loolupants, All Rights Reserved.