It’s an honor to invite Cindy to the blog today, especially because she’s a reader who got in touch after reading Finding Myself in Britain. She could relate to the theme of finding and making a home, as you’ll see below. She asks in her post the profound question: Can we ever really go home?
“There’s no place like home.” I agree with those iconic words spoken by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, but where is home and can we ever go back? I never gave the notion much thought until I experienced “going back home” first hand.
Twelve years ago, my husband was fortunate to be offered the choice of two different positions with his company; one was in Manchester, England, and the other in Pennsylvania. Although I knew these were wonderful opportunities for our family, I was apprehensive about moving, especially overseas. I had never lived anywhere outside of New York, where I had grown up, and Michigan, where I was living at the time, and hardly ever traveled abroad. I had the normal concerns. How would the move affect my children? Would we fit in and be accepted in a new city or new culture?
At the time, my step-father was battling stage 4 stomach cancer and moving to Pennsylvania would have put us closer to our family in New York where I could visit and help with his care. But I knew how much my husband wanted to work overseas. He understood my dilemma and left the final decision to me. On a visit to New York I spoke with my parents and they both agreed that we should make the decision based on what we wanted and not to let my step-father’s illness make the decision for us. In fact, my parents urged us to accept the position in England.
On our long car ride back home to Michigan, after that New York visit, I put my head in my lap and asked God to give me a sign to help me make this difficult decision. I prayed for a bit and as I lifted my head from my lap and looked out the car window a truck was passing by. On the side of that truck in huge bold letters was the word ENGLAND. As silly as it may seem I took that as my sign from God and we made the decision to accept the position in England.
As it turned out my step-father passed away three months later on the day we were flying to England to search for a home and school for our children. I will never know if he knew he wouldn’t be around much longer and he didn’t want us to miss out on this great opportunity, but I felt a huge relief that I had made the right decision.
All of my fears about living in England were for naught. I felt oddly at home living there. My children were warmly welcomed at their school and made some great friends. I also made great friendships with four British women that I am still in touch with ten years later.
After two very short years living in England, my husband was transferred back to the States, and I didn’t want to move back. I was enjoying submerging myself in a new culture and hoping to deepen my new friendships. The only thing that brought me comfort was the fact that we were moving back home. Back to the same town in Michigan that we came from. Everything would be familiar and I would be with my good friends once again.
And this is when the question, can we go back home, was answered for me. I had had these amazing experiences I was excited to share but my friends weren’t excited to hear about them. They couldn’t relate to my stories or to me because they hadn’t had the same experiences. What I didn’t realize was that over the course of two short years everyone I knew in Michigan had moved on with their lives. I was no longer a part of things and we couldn’t just pick up where we left off. I tried to re-establish old relationships but didn’t feel accepted and didn’t understand why. These were friends who cried when they found out I was moving to England, so why weren’t they excited that I was back? I fell into a deep depression and finally I realized I had to move on as well. I needed to establish new friendships and stop trying to regain old friendships.
While reading Amy’s book, Finding Myself in Britain, I came across a quote from Karl Dahlfred that made me think hard and realize that maybe my former friends weren’t the only ones that had changed. Maybe living overseas had changed me as well. I couldn’t place all the blame on them. Maybe I couldn’t relate to them any more than they could relate to me.
Over the years since we have returned I have established new friendships and rarely tell stories about life overseas anymore. I’ve come to realize that home isn’t a country, city, or neighborhood. It’s not a physical place or even being around former friends. Home is where you are surrounded by those you feel most comfortable with at any given time no matter where you are. Now I feel a sense of being “at home” when I am with my family, current friends, or when I have the fortunate opportunity to visit my friends in England.
Dorothy was right: There is no place like home. You just have to know where to find it.
Cindy Galizio was born and raised in a small town in New York and worked in New York City in the world of finance for 12 years before relocating to Michigan with her husband. Shortly after the move she had two children and decided to be a stay at home mom. When her children were 9 and 10 her husband’s job relocated the family just outside of Manchester, England for two years and Cindy embraced and fully immersed herself in the new culture. On her move back across the pond her career as a “professional volunteer” began. She loves helping others in need and admits that selfishly she receives more from volunteering than the people that she helps. Cindy and her husband just recently became empty nesters and are excitedly anticipating the next phase of life.