One of the bravest choices to make when immigrating to the other side of the world is to leave family and friends. It’s not like it’s near enough to ‘pop’ over for afternoon tea with Auntie or catch up with the whole family over a long Sunday lunch. It’s a good twenty-four hours and a few thousand dollars away. It’s especially hard when there’s been a death in the family. I don’t like the fact that there is no closure on the life of a loved one for us. Clearly we’d be there if we could but it’s not always possible. We’re sent the funeral Order of Service and know that their life has sadly come to an end and was celebrated and mourned but no one takes photographs at funerals do they?
Don’t think we didn’t discuss the fact that we would be denying our children a ‘normal’ life of growing up surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Instead they have become accustomed to long distance relationships with their rellies. But never before has a generation been able to communicate and to keep in touch over long distances using such a wide range of methods. Sunday is traditionally Skype Night but even that can be arranged on the fly these days using mobile phones instead of having to be at home huddled around the computer at a particular time.
The hardest time of year for missing the family is at Christmas, especially when it’s traditionally the time when families get together. Our Australian friends seem to spend Christmas Day travelling between various relations for breakfast, lunch and dinner while others will be hosting a ‘mega-gathering’ of over thirty family members. Quite often we have been invited to join a family Christmas which is an honour but then there have been years when we have just been us.
We are fortunate enough to have visits from the grandies every year or so and Chief and I head back to Blighty once in awhile.
And then there are our friends who had to learn to live with the hole we left behind eleven years ago. Some of them will never forgive us for doing that but they know that we are making the most of our time on this planet and providing opportunities for ourselves and our children. Social media is truly a wonderful thing when you want to connect with far away chums. Some friendships have fallen by the wayside which is to be expected I guess, while others remain as strong as ever.
All this reflection got me thinking about the wonderful friends we have in Australia and at last we’ve been here long enough to have history with them and to be able to reminisce.
I recently spent a weekend in Adelaide to celebrate my milestone birthday and caught up with a wonderful group of girlfriends. We first ‘grouped’ back in 2008 I think it was, as a book club but it has become far more than a six weekly catch up to discuss the merits of a novel. We share a special friendship and although this year two of us left for opposite ends of Australia, we still try to keep in touch and meet up when back in Adelaide. You can read more about us here.
Over the last eleven years, Chief and I have nurtured friendships from the minute we touched down; with the people who helped us find our feet, our association with school and club sports as well as neighbours and work mates and we are truly blessed to have some wonderful people in our lives. And whilst they’ll never replace that family bond, their loyalty and love towards us eases that feeling of loss we sometimes experience.
I was relaying this sentiment to a colleague the other day and she asked me if I had ever read this quote which I want to share with you. It’s from the book The Girl With No Name, by Marina Chapman.
Family is not just about who you appear to belong to, or what it says on your birth certificate, or who you look like, or even what they’d find if they studied your DNA. Family is found anywhere you are loved and cared for. That might mean friends or foster parents, a group of even a charity. What matters far more – so much more than chemistry or ancestry, is that precious bond, that reassurance that they won’t let you down.
Of course my eyes overflowed after reading this, it made me realise that we are absolutely loved and cared for, not only by our families but by our ‘Australian family’ as well as our long distance friends – they are all there for us with love, warmth and open arms. Life is good!