Tomorrow we board the first of four planes on our way back home to England for Christmas. I say ‘home’, but like the vast majority of people who live overseas home is a peculiar concept. The concept of home is even more complicated in our little family of four as we span three continents by birth and nationality. We are a confused, but contented bunch.
This Christmas will be our American son’s first Christmas in a western country since age three as well his first in England. It will be our four year old Chinese daughter’s first Christmas ever.
My husband was born and raised in England and going back for him is very much a coming home. His parents have lived in the same house for forty years. We meet up with his old school friends. We go walking in the same woods he walked in as a child. English food, English humour, English manners are all a very big part of who he is. It’s lovely to watch him in his own environment, to see him take in a big breath of air – like he’s finally breathing easily again.
We love England, but for us other three England is a sort of a three quarters or maybe even just a half home. We claim it as our own, but don’t fully understand it.
“Mom, do they have rice in England?” my son asked today. “Yep. They just don’t eat it as much.” I reply. The question surprised me though. We were in England just six months ago – does he really not know?
There are so many things we don’t know.
I am excited for my children to experience the jokes in Christmas crackers, carolers out in the street, cold weather, the gathering of all the family- grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins – together for a Christmas meal, to exchange gifts, for mince pies and mulled wine by a warm fire.
There is so much good to experience this Christmas in England. Then in the New Year we’ll come home to Indonesia, another not-quite-fully-home where we currently live.
In all the travel, in all the places we’ve lived, we did find home. Our mixed up and meshed together hodgepodge of cultures and experiences created our own unique family culture. Our favourite pancakes are rolled thin and served with lemon and sugar. We buy chicken on a stick slathered in peanut sauce from street vendors. We use chop sticks. We use forks and knives. We bake bread. We are squatty potty masters.
We are not just British, or American, or Chinese, or Indonesian – we are Hopkinsons. No matter where we are, we are home when we are together.
Merry Christmas, friends. May you be at home with the ones you love, wherever you are.