Years ago, long before my joints began to fall apart with old age, babies decided to make my womb a home and gray hairs sprouted on top of my head in multiples, I bought my mother a ceramic ornament in the shape of a house. On it were six words: “Home is where your mother is.” At the time, these words held little meaning to me. I was living and working in Toronto, able to see my family at a moment’s notice and they were able to drop by unannounced. With seven siblings, I used to feel that these family visits and obligations were too many, taking up most of my freedom on weekends. Now, living in London, I often wish that I could quickly jet over to Canada to give everyone a hug, enjoy a delicious meal of Swiss Chalet, laugh over the silly things we’ve done and tell them how much I love each and every one of them.
Now that I have two children of my own whom I’ve raised in two different countries over the past seven years, I find myself thinking back to this ornament (chachka, my husband would call it).Toronto (home of my own mother and the majority of my family) holds many fond memories of a childhood spent in reckless abandon and endless amounts of joy. London, on the other hand, while by far the most beautiful city I’ve lived in, still doesn’t hold that kind of power. But the longer we live here, the more I realize that it has become “home” for our children. They are forming their own fun childhood memories in the parks and greens surrounding our home, creating traditions each time we have “family games night” and weekend car trip adventures. They look at us with blank expressions when we say we’re going “home” for Christmas because for them, “home” is where their father and I are — no matter which country we may be in.
As I pack for our annual trip to “Canada” this Christmas, bemoaning the over-priced airfare that digs into our savings and the ridiculous amount of luggage we bring in order to cart presents and hand-me-down clothes between London and Toronto, I feel a twinge of excitement at finally having a chance to hug our family members in real life (as opposed to those awkward virtual ones we attempt over Skype). Despite the jet lag and exhaustion we’ll all feel at being tugged in too many directions over the week and a half to come, this is what the holidays are really about — being with the ones you love, no matter which “home” you may be in.
I can’t wait to see the joy on my children’s faces as they run into their grandparents’ outstretched arms and the squeal of excitement that will escape their little lips as they first see their beloved cousins. They may not think of Toronto as their traditional “home,” but they definitely feel its importance in their lives and they, too, have made lasting memories each winter and summer we visit, making the chaotic schedule and expensive flights worth it.
As I point out the CN Tower from my window on the plane, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief that in only minutes we’ll be giving our children the best present of all this Christmas — family.