The other day, I woke up and realized that I had lived as long in our little French village as I had in my hometown, Willows. Eighteen years.
Eighteen years in one place... twice.
I thought of how the first eighteen years shaped me, how the love I had received fashioned me, how I consider the small town in California my home, even now.
I have lived in France for over twenty four years.. TWENTY FOUR years! It is hard to fathom. Yet the other morning when I woke up I realized that living in France, in this small village in the middle of Provence has been my home for as long as I was growing up in Willows.
And it too has shaped me, fashioned me and given me an enormous education, an appreciation for all that I have and have had.
When you live in a foreign country rather than the one you know as home, there are certain things you expect will be different, unusual, far from the norm of what you are accustom to. Those big things like language, culture, food... those big things that are necessary to understand and help one to feel like they fit in. One doesn't expect to be thrown off by the little things such as how to open a door, toilet paper, signatures, hand shakes, ice cubes, you know the little things that you don't expect to be different but are and catch you off guard the first time you encounter them.
When you live in a foreign country you will learn the language, learn the culture, cook their food, sing their songs and eventually laugh at their jokes. But when you first live in a foreign country you will miss the smallest things from back home the most... for me the things I missed the most where so silly I can hardly bring myself to tell you... let's just say you will miss the smallest things because it is easier to cope with than feeling your heart breaking because you aren't there for your Mother's birthday, or your niece's birth, or your best friend's wedding nor any of the unending list of important dates that will come every week for the rest of your life.
When you live in a foreign country your mother tongue sounds like music. When you hear someone speaking your language your very words will race out, "Hello! Where are you from?" Perfect strangers seem like your new best friends. You have much in common without even knowing the person name.
You will wonder why you don't meet more people when you are back home... everyone there speaks your tongue?
Then after years of living in a foreign country you realize you have two places called home. You look around and the foreign place doesn't feel so foreign. The doors that were closed to you before have opened over time, and the homesickness feels so common you think of it as a bruise that won't go away, you know how to protect it.
When you live in a foreign country the keys to your new life will seem strange. The keys to any door at first feel awkward to use. Then one day you realize that the passage is just part of the journey and every nook, cranny, door, and key has brought you to a another place within yourself.