Everytime I go to my home town, I feel like I'm reaching a hand out and touching my childhood self. Driving around the streets of my town, I find memories on every corner. I excitedly tell my kids, "That's where I went to the dentist!" and "There's the office I worked in for a year and every summer in University!" My kids slowly lift their heads from what they are doing in the backseat and feign a little interest, and then go back to their books and toys.
There is a power in connecting to your childhood; in remembering the feelings and the freedom of having no responsibilities and being loved and cherished. My best friend from elementary school and her extended family still live in our hometown, and going a few times a year to see them gives me a warm, happy feeling of where I've come from, and also the knowledge of how far I've come as a person in my own right.
I struggled with identity as a teenager. During my parents' divorce when I was 15 years old, I moved somewhat seamlessly into my friend's house and family. I fit there. I belonged to them, and was possessed by them. I really needed that security and sense of belonging at that time in my life, but moving into my early adulthood, I found that my personality was split down the middle. There was the part that belonged to my family of origin, and the part that became absorbed by my best friend's family.
I learned, subconsciously, how to fit in with both groups. I behaved a certain way with my own family, and another way with my friend's family. It worked for a number of years, and then suddenly, the cracks began to show, and I hit a crisis point when Jason and I became engaged and he noticed how different I was in both sets of company. Slowly, I came to understand that I wanted to find out who I really was, apart from what I was expected to be in these two different settings.
I worried about offending my family with behaviours that were more suitable for my friend's family, and vice versa. The two had different belief systems and acceptable actions. I could keep them separate in my mind, by being intentional about my words and behaviours when I was with each group, but in my spirit, I was struggling because I couldn't figure out what I really valued for myself.
A large part of my early married life was living in BC, away from both family groups, and taking risks in order to get to know who I really was. Once I was on more equal footing within myself, I then experienced the challenge of behaving as myself with my family and my friend's family, without fear of reprisal. It wasn't easy. There were a number of years where I panicked and felt I wouldn't be accepted.
After riding out a few rocky years, everything sort of stabilized and now these visits are so relaxed and easy and fun. I love that we have a new sort of relationship, based on truth and honesty, and it works much better than the old one where I was bending myself like Gumby in order to fit in. Our kids play together, and have a good time, and I get to watch my kids be fully themselves with my friend's kids. It's like coming full circle for me.
My friend's mom hosted a delicious BBQ steak dinner and made my favourite dessert in the whole world (mud pie!) for me. I felt loved and accepted through the tender care and the food she and her husband provided. It was like going back to being a teenager, but without any of the angst and crippling self esteem issues I faced at that time. This was wholesome, and pure, and I fully appreciated what this family has done for me over the years. Now I get to share this bounty of riches with my husband, and with my children. It's a beautiful thing, and I'm very grateful.