Posted by Juliane Samara, 27 June 2014
Is it possible to not know your parents until you have known them for 47 years?
Last week I was in a bit of a slump. Mum and Dad had been visiting since May, and we had several lovely holidays during their month here. Then, all of a sudden, it was over and they had gone back to the other side of the world – to that place defined by our family as “home”, but it currently seems a million miles away.
I was really excited when Mum and Dad said they would come and visit – they’ve been to Europe several times over the past few years, but initially when we told them about our intention to move to Switzerland they just didn’t really seem to understand why we wanted to come to live here. And then, after we actually made the move, they had no idea what our life was like. Even though we had regular skype video chats to catch up on each others’ news, there seemed to be something missing from our conversations. I’m not sure what it was, maybe it was just that sense of connection. Or maybe it was just that I had taken yet another step away from the family that I grew up in – even as an adult we continue to make small steps away to become individuals….yes, even when we are 47 years old.
We know that we are very lucky as our apartment is large by Geneva standards, but it still feels pretty small after you have lived in a large house on a 1/4 acre block for 26 years. It has two bedrooms and (thankfully) two toilets, a kitchen and a combined lounge/dining room. The real saving grace is a wonderful rooftop terrace with views to both the lake and the mountains, with access from inside the apartment via a staircase. This means that we have a way to escape outdoors, can have a few pot plants and a BBQ, and we don’t have to rely on just a tiny balcony like most of our neighbours. I was a bit worried about having to share our perfect “two person” space with another couple for an extended period – the first of many visitors to come over the summer – even if they were family. Thankfully it was not an issue; there was no fighting over whose turn it was next in the bathroom, my mum stayed out of my kitchen (family joke – noone is allowed in her kitchen, I really don’t mind sharing mine with anyone who wants to do the dishes), we relaxed in the evenings without getting in each others’ way, and we all managed to stay sane and not argue, even when discussing politics!
We really made the most of our time together and crammed a lot into the month. On our first weekend together we drove to Chamonix and went up Mont Blanc via the Aguille du Midi. Mum has a real fear of heights and the cable car ride was terrifying for her, but she held it together and once we got to the top she managed to enjoy the scenery. We drove to Montreaux and saw Chateau Chillon, and then the following weekend caught the train to Lucerne and did the lake cruise/cog railway/cable car trip to Mount Pilatus where we enjoyed walking to the highest point and looking at the alpine flowers. Anura then had to travel to Bangkok, Vietnam and Cambodia for two weeks with work, so that gave me some time alone with Mum and Dad. Together we explored Rome for a week, then traveled to spend time with dad’s family in Tel Aviv, then on Swiss Father’s Day we took a picnic to the top of the Saleve (by cable car) and spent the afternoon watching the paragliders take off and land. During our time together, we saw some amazing sights, explored lots of narrow laneways and side streets, ate wonderful food, walked, shopped and talked. When Anura returned from his work trip we hired a car and drove from Geneva through the Simplon Pass to Lake Como, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Monaco and through Provence to La Seyne Sur La Mer. Our last day all together was in Annecy, where we enjoyed the local market and shops, ate baguettes and drank wine by the lake in the warm sun, and then hired a boat for an hour and cruised around the lake. It was a perfect way to end a great holiday.
Of course, saying goodbye at the airport was very emotional. This time we all knew it will be at least a year before we see each other again. This time, there was a closeness that hadn’t been there the last time we said goodbye. This time, there was a sense that life is not long enough,that none of us are getting any younger and there is still so much to say to each other and do together. Having finally relaxed in each others’ company, we just wanted to spend more time together and enjoy it. So there were lots and lots of tears, and I found it extremely difficult to watch them go through the security gate and to then leave the airport and come home alone to an empty apartment.
I have to say that the month with Mum and Dad was, from my point of view, the best time I have ever spent with them. I think there are several reasons for this. First, they were away from the business and pressures of work, and were really able to relax. Second, there was no competition for their time and attention; most of the time we have spent with them over the past 20+ years has included other family members and our children, and has been squeezed into a few hours over a quick visit, this time we had them all to ourselves. But third, and perhaps most importantly, was the fact that (because of the first and second reasons), we were able to talk about things we had never talked about before – our memories, our likes and dislikes, our feelings, our worries, our regrets, and our hopes for the future. Now when we skype it feels like we are finally connected and that they can now relate to my life here on the other side of the world. They know the place that I call home, and can picture the places I talk about. Is it really possible to not know your parents until you have known them for 47 years? Unfortunately the answer is yes – but thankfully I can now say that for the first time in my life I feel like I really know my parents, and that they really know me. I’m really happy about that.