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On migration

Migration, flow, movement, grief, letting go, adaptation, compromise, longing, honoring, being torn, blending, dancing between homes…

When we migrate we take with us as little or as much as we can, we fill our backpack with food, photos and music, our heart with kisses, memories and longing. We arrive in our new home and we put down our luggage on the welcoming land, not really knowing yet where this will all fit. We look around and see friendly faces, we start mumbling a couple of words in a language that we learnt at school, maybe regretting not having paid more attention to the teacher at the time.

Our youngest son was unconcerned about our move to Australia some years ago. It wasn’t until that morning, when we had to say goodbye to my mother in Spain, that he realised that he would not see her again for a long time. He started to cry inconsolably at my Mum´s doorway and continued so on our way to the airport. He kept wailing on the first plane all the way through to Singapore. The weeping did not stop during our stopover at the airport for our connecting flight to Sydney. It was only when we sat in the second plane, that our son started to be soothed. I had never seen anyone crying so desperately for so long before. When we landed in Sydney, we were picked up by our Australian family and arrived home exhausted but happy to be reunited. Our son spent that day playing with his cousins and late that evening he came to me and said in a worried voice: “Mum, how can it be that I am so happy now, after having cried so much?” I said to him that this was totally normal that he felt sad to leave his grandmother but now to feel happy to be in Australia with the other part of the family. That the sadness would probably diminish and would leave more and more space for happiness as the days would pass.

I am thinking now about all the adjustments migrants make when they live abroad. The awkwardness that never really abandons them once they have left their country of origin. They are newcomers in their host country and yet feel dislodged when they go back home for a visit.

My paternal grandmother Anita, migrated from her native Barcelona in Spain, to a small town in France, Mézin, where she was known as l’Espagnole”. My father was born there and took the opposite road:He moved back to Spain after having married my mother in the little church of Mézin. They became French teachers in the middle sized Spanish city of Manresa, where they were referred to as the “Monsieur” and the “Madame”. When I was a child,I used to be called the “Gavatxa” (the “Frenchie”) at school. Now we are in Australia, and our son is called “The Spaniard”, just like his great-grandmother in France. Patterns run in families, and migration is definitely at the essence of my family system.

I am spending some quality time now with my Mum who is 92 and still lives in Manresa. She goes out every day to do her shopping and often bumps into some old student of hers, happy to practice French with her for a moment. I know that this is part of what sustains my Mum in her old days, away from her own origins. She also spends her days reading French books from her charming library, sipping with pleasure from the fountain of all those words that she is now slowly starting to forget. We are spending hours reading side by side, mother and daughter. Her world is shrinking and her steps are becoming shaky. She has contributed to this land, teaching her language and her culture in a country that was hungry for freedom under the oppression of a dictatorship. She is allowed to take it easy now. Her children and grandchildren are taking up the mantle. I hope that we can all live up to her in bringing something good to our new home.

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