Each time I come home, as I’m booking the flights, I think to myself: Good Lord three weeks is an awfully long time. And it is, until I arrive. And for some reason, the minute I make my way through Pearson, time changes and speeds up significantly. All of a sudden there are a ridiculous amount of things I need to do, of people I want to see, and places I want to go.
Frequently, I imagine things we might do when I come home to visit. A trip to the Toronto Zoo perhaps, or Point Peele which I’ve always wanted to go to but we’ve never managed it. I have been going into Toronto to see friends for a few days for many of my most recent trips. It doesn’t sound like long, four days, does it? It’s not. And it’s never enough time to see everyone.
Some ex-pat friends of mine are more strict with their time, and I ought to learn from them. Word goes out on all social media platforms, announcing a time and date and address. The person in question will pitch up at the pub during these hours, to meet with whomever fancies dropping by. It’s like office hours, but with more drinking. Trouble is, the first few times you do this, there are always a few pals who will come along and think: this is a great opening gambit, let’s make plans to hang out again. And it’s not that you don’t want to, it’s that you have only so much time.
I say I’m on holiday, but it’s not the sort of holiday most people have, where they turn up somewhere and veg out, relax, and maybe eat and drink a bit too much in a languid sort of way. No, my holidays are about keeping what’s left of my Canadian life alive and well. Friendship and family take work and you’ve got to turn up to make it work. This involves a diary that’s more action-packed than when I’m not on holiday. Why, when I’m just doing life in Bristol, entire weekends go by where I do nothing but write and swim. Though, those two things are certainly featuring prominently in this holiday, but what really drives me crazy is that I will never be able to meet up with all the people I’d like to.
I used to try and see everyone individually at least once when I came home. But that leaves me more exhausted than when I started out, which these days is pretty bone tired. So now it’s a matter of a rotating hierarchy – not ideal but when people get a bit sniffy I remind them that airplanes go both ways.
There are lots of wonderful things about living the life of an ex-pat or immigrant. But the thing that’s less than ideal is that long sort of drawn out period in which you haven’t stopped being friends with the people you spent your twenties with, but you can’t keep on keeping on. What I mean is that of course we change. Fundamentally we’re still very much the people we’ve always been, but how we spend our time differs. I always end up feeling guilty that I’ve not seen everyone I want to, but there comes a point in time when I think it’s reasonable and for the best if everyone just acknowledges that it’s been over a decade and we can still be friends but maybe we don’t need to meet up every year. There are certainly folks I love who I rarely speak with, and with whom I’ve come to some sort of unspoken arrangement: we’ve not grown out of one another but we can still be friends without needing to meet up once or twice a year. Sometimes it can only be every couple of years. I think if the friendship is strong enough to begin with, that never ends up being a problem.
And good job too because when, like me, you move towns every three or four years, you not only move, you leave behind another group of pals that you want to visit and spend time with and… oh, this is exactly the sort of thing that tires me out and makes me think I need a holiday.
Anyhow, I’m lucky to be able to come home as often as I do, and very lucky to have friends here who still want to see me. I do my best, they do their best. But what I find very cheering indeed, is that The Mom is still very close to our old neighbours in California – people she met thirty years ago.
I know the schedule is only going to get more hectic as the years pass and there are more and more things to deal with and figure out.
I’m reminded of when I was a girl and when we went on holiday how The Mom was always keen to do nothing at all, and how we pestered the poor woman because we were bored. Now though I understand why she didn’t want to do anything – she was doing exactly what she needed to do: rest. If only I’d have known then…