Whenever I left Brentwood to move to Belfast there was physical pain and wrenching as well as huge emotional outpouring. I drove away from my parents’ home, the home of my teenage years, in my little yellow Cinquecento (which had been my sister’s), with Holly the cat beside me and my new husband driving a truck ahead of me filled with all my belongings. The tears flowed most of the way to Liverpool and my body ached. It was grief. Grief for the loss of not being near as my niece and nephew grew up. The reality of not being a tangible part of their lives, having been so very close to them from birth (literally with one of them), hit me hard and broke me. I had never known sadness like it, saying goodbye to Mum and Dad, sister and friends. It was the hardest thing I had ever done.
Leaving the town where I’d been born, gone to school, worshipped, fallen in love (and out again a million times before I was 17), worked at my first jobs and learnt to drive, was hard too. I’d been away and come back twice. This time was different. This time was permanent.
I was leaving behind my history and my roots. I was letting go of things I had held tightly.
The excitement and joy of being newly married, making a home and starting a family made the first few years an adventure. We were making our own history and growing our own roots in neighbourhood, church family, school life and work community.
Right now I am back in Brentwood, sitting in a park and listening to the distinctive Essex accent all around me, wondering if I’ll gain a twang before I go back. Maybe Katy’s growing Belfast accent will have an Essex edge by the time we leave?!
I have just met Kathleen (92) handing out puzzle pages and crosswords she has cut out from the paper. I heard her story of how she and her husband came to ‘accidentally’ buy the beautiful Victorian house just there over the park fence. Our histories intertwine. One of her children was born in the same maternity home as me. Her uncle owned the locally famous toy shop from my childhood and she knows the streets where I grew up. We even share a name – kind of!
This encounter stirs a warm response from me, a comfortableness of knowing and being known just because of this town and my history. I have left physically, but there will always be a part of me, in a deep place inside, that calls this place ‘home’. There will always be a part of me that meets the familiarity with welcome and memories and contentment. There will always be a part of me that wonders how it would be to go back.
We will soon pack our bags, board our plane and head home. Home to Belfast. We will find pain in the leaving again but gratitude for these days of intertwining our lives briefly with family and friends here. We will head home to continue growing our roots and have our history shaped by the next season of life for our family, safely in God’s hands.
In leaving, there is loss, but there is also a heart full of memories, love shared, lives entwined forever and new adventures ahead for us all.