Home Is Where?
Because of the nature of my husband’s job my family moves a lot. The US Government agency for which he works considers me a “Trailing Spouse”. That’s what I do with my kids – trail my husband and his job wherever they go.
It already stands that none of us were born in the same place. I was born in Virginia, my husband in Wyoming, Son #1 in New York and Son #2 in New Jersey. My husband has lived the better part of his life in South America (16 years in Colombia and going on 3 in Argentina) and before I turned 30 I spent all of mine on the east coast of the US. As I am a few months from leaving our second South American home I have only recently learned to embrace what it means to wander the globe with purposeful intent, yet with a heart that never feels quite… settled. Where the hell is our home?
Every few years we pack up our things (to be fair movers pack up our things), our pictures and memories, and we display them in a new house and settle in for as long as it is we will be there. There is always a predetermined time period in which we will attempt to carve out a meaningful existence in a place that is usually unfamiliar territory. Home is where our stuff is.
In 2011 we learned that Argentina would be our next destination. Unlike many of my friends here, we were heading down with a plan; a three year plan after which we would leave and be on to the next adventure.
What we were then – a family of three – arrived in Buenos Aires in March of 2013. While our previous years spent in Colombia found us familiar with South America, we had never actually stepped foot in Argentina. And it was so far away; so far away from the comfort and familiarity of the United States, so far away from our families, or friends, our life.
We settled in quickly and it wasn’t long before an optimistic, wine-loving girl became familiar with the well-known frustrations in Buenos Aires, the things you don’t read about on The Lonely Planet website. No dinner in a restaurant before 8? There are two rates of dollar exchange? Where are all the options for food? Why don’t I have water or Internet? Why do people seem so serious? Do they laugh here? Why do the children eat so much sugar? Smoking is allowed in public?
Unfortunately, I allowed these negative thoughts to consume my mind and shape what would become my overall perception of where I lived. The lens through which I viewed this country was far from rose colored and before we received our shipment of belongings, I already wanted out.
Then in month 2 something amazing happened – I got pregnant. This was amazing for the obvious reasons, but also because it meant I would have an excuse to flee this place for a few months and hunker down in my comfy New York nest and birth a baby in the neighboring state – which I did. And when our family of four came back to Argentina I breathed a sigh of relief because that meant we had one year under our belt – only two more to go.
In the year that followed my second son’s birth I found myself very depressed. Argentina is incredibly beautiful, and like her dance the Tango she comes with a dark side too; and I allowed that darkness to swallow me whole. After year two I was ready to throw in the towel and give up, I couldn’t make it three years and it would be an acceptable decision for me to return to the US with my kids and await my husband’s return there. Argentina had won. This hemisphere was not big enough for the two of us.
I took a trip (ok a few trips) “home” to the US during that time and explored my options. While losing a part of my mind I searched frantically to find a familiar place I could attach to, a geographical location that would make me feel safe and secure. While I contemplated my decisions in my happy place of New York, I finally came to realize the very idea that our family takes our home where we go. The warm, fuzzy feeling wasn’t going to come from Argentina, not for this girl; she was challenging me to bring that warm fuzzy feeling to her, from within myself. About a week later my kids and I made plans to return and did just that.
So here we are amidst our six month countdown before we pack up and leave for our next house. It took me two and a half years, the birth of a second child, countless tears of frustration and a few beautiful friendships to realize that home is going to be where we bring it. I’ve accepted that any time spent wishing I was elsewhere is time I am wasting and life I am not living. I’ve learned that it’s not always going to be easy and it’s not always going to feel right from the outside. I thank Argentina for teaching me these valuable lessons and now, I love her for it.
By Stephanie Lee