I'm not talking about 'where your house is,' not even thinking about home being 'where your heart is'. I'm talking about the place that speaks to your heart every time you see it, even in pictures. The place that calls you in your dreams, the place that fills your photo albums, the place where, when you place foot on its soil, you breathe a sigh of relief because you are finally where you belong.
I never believed there was such a place. I grew up knowing that home was where I was loved, home was where my family was, home was wherever 'we' were.
And then came the fateful January morning.
I'd arrived in England the afternoon before, exhausted and new to school. I'd collapsed on the bed in my dorm room, into the foggy black sleep of jet lag. I woke early that morning, and peered out of the window to this view: an English garden covered in a carpet of frost, a field stretching out beyond it, with a giant oak tree in the middle.
[this is the picture I took that morning]
I pressed my cheek to the glass, and I knew, knew with certainty: finally, I was where I belonged.
[This is the outside of my dorm - my room is the top row of those windows in the middle sticking out]
There was much to complain about - don't get me wrong. Terrible weather, tiny houses, poor dental care. The grocery stores didn't carry pretzels, at first. And there was no Target! But oh, what there was: bluebell forests, old stone houses, ancient pubs, country gardens, London - LONDON!, seas of daffodils, regular football matches, the British Library, cream teas, the River Thames, a little village called Sonning, and, before I left, a sweet little cottage to call my own.
[This is the view of the Thames Cecilie and I saw on our walks through the village every day]
Eleven years later, with tears streaming down my face in the middle of Heathrow airport, I boarded the final Washington-bound airplane. We'd made a decision to take our little family Stateside permanently.
After six autumns here in the States, you would think I'd be over it. But I miss England every single day - I miss it so much that my heart hurts when I see pictures like the ones above. When I hear these words in the Simon & Garfunkel song, my throat tightens, and I physically feel the call over the ocean: And from the the shelter of my mind/ Through the window of my eyes/ I gaze beyond the rain-drenched streets/ To England where my heart lies.
It was a moment of grace - that instant when I knew I was home. It was continued grace that I was able to make a life there for eleven years. Yet this is what I know for sure: although I found the place my heart calls home, I have learned in the six years since that my heart can stretch bigger than it ever knew. I have learned that although I miss England so deeply, I wouldn't trade my life there for my life with my kids, with my husband, here in our little home - not for all the tea in Fortnum & Mason.