We are preparing to move house. On Friday, we finally move into our own home, the one we ‘won’ at auction a few months ago.
In ferrying various belongings between our rented house and the new place, I’ve have plenty of time to consider the significance of the word home and what it means to us.
I’ve written at length about how Denmark was a wonderful home for us. So much so, that I wondered if the truth hasn’t been blurred by my recollections. This troubled me and I began to think harder about the early years in Denmark and whether they really were as carefree as I imagine.
Yes, by our tenth year, Denmark had become home, Copenhagen had worked its magic on us and the constant see-saw between endless summer days and snow-muffled winters each brought a different kind of contentment with them.
But if I scratch harder at the sheen, I see the odd blemish. After the post-arrival novelty had worn off, there were a few bumps along the way. Cultural integration, complicated by the language barrier, was elusive and it took the interpretations of other expats to help us understand why things were the way they were and how we could negotiate them.
For a long time we shied away from the perceived complexity of the wonderful public transport system and drove everywhere, in a most un-Danish display of selfishness.
And socially, it took several years before our network extended beyond other expats and into the local community.
A further rub at the gloss and I recall a moment, perhaps 18 months in, when I would have happily thrown it all in and gone back to England. As is also true now, the lure of the familiar felt tempting when set against the uncertainty of the new. I’m glad we didn’t give up.
Such lessons are important to recall because the road to calling Canberra home has been pocketed with many of the same pot-holes.
The move to a home of our own feels like a major step forwards, however. We have a (small) chunk of the Australian continent to call our own; we can choose and buy furniture that we actually want to be surrounded with; and we can talk in terms of mortgage years rather than rental months. Most of all, we can reassure the kids that the future is going to be more stable than it has been at any time in the past five years.
And that’s the most important thing of all. For all of his early distress, mini-CBRbound has adapted to life here in a way that has me standing back and smiling. Just 14 months into our move he is flying at school, excelling at sports, and showing leadership in his other hobbies. It sounds strange to say this of a nine year-old, but he is already an admirable young man.
Conversely, Maxi-CBRbound, the loudest cheerleader for our move and earliest adopter of all things Aussie, seems to have lost his way of late. He was thrown off kilter by February’s move to senior school — his fourth school in five years — and has turned away from many of the hobbies he embraced on arrival — running, tennis, swimming.
He is at a crossroads; one where he needs help and guidance to choose the way forward. We hope that having a ‘forever home’ will help him to find himself again. Re-learning the lessons of our arrival in Denmark will help us to not underestimate what he is going through.
Starting a new life is exciting, yes, but it’s far from being a breeze, and at 12 years-old, it may even feel like a hurricane.