For most of us, singletons living abroad, when summer break approaches, it often means going back to the Mothership and paying a visit to our loved ones (loved ones we might have ran away from to start with – let’s face it, there is a reason if we don’t live back home) and spend a week or two (if not a month for the unluckiest ones) back at mum and dad’s when all we really wanted to do was sit by the pool and drink margaritas.
The Holiday is both a time of joy and dread. A time of joy, some mere few moments when we hug each other silly and are comforted by our mum’s cooking, get that oh-so-awaited envelope from nan and catch up with friends that have turned acquaintances and whose life we’re so glad we’re not leading. A time of joy nibbling on some hobnobs, devouring Fish and Chips at two in the morning and drinking some real lager.
The dread, though, was always there. It was in the pit of your stomach when you boarded the plane; it was there too when you landed, temporarily numbed by fake excitement; it was there and pumping when you entered your old room, the one that hasn’t changed yet, the one where your childhood sleeps.
Some of us get a day or two of peace before the Dread sets in entirely and uncompromisingly. But no matter how long it takes, it gets there: That itchy feeling that something is wrong, that YOU are wrong. A passing remark is often all you need. A “Did you make your bed?”; a “Is that how you drink your tea nowadays?” and then the waltz starts “We’re meeting the Dunnings for tea…Nan is expecting you…I saw Emma, she is still talking about you…” and all of a sudden, you’re in a car, being driven around against your will, unable to put a word in edgewise. They are deciding for you. They are driving you wherever They decide you need to go. They are back in charge and you are 14 again. You are the teenager you’ve always been in their eyes. You are that silly, lanky boy whose opinion doesn’t truly matter, who’s a nice boy…such a nice boy…but most definitely a boy. You’re not a man anymore.
You try telling them that you, too, pay bills, work long hours, have a career (Teaching English abroad is not a career son! It’s a phase!), can cook for yourself, worry about the future and you talk and you talk and all they hear is white noise. This is not a battle you can win because in this battlefield you have no weapons. This is home and at home, you have nothing to show: no flat, no job, no car, no partner, nothing! And because you have nothing concrete and tangible, you’re reduced to that boy they waved goodbye at the train station so long ago.
Soon, you start doubting yourself. Maybe, They’re right. Maybe, you’re just a boy. Maybe, this life you lead so successfully miles from home is but a dream, a silly (they seem to love that word) silly dream. The Dread turns into angst, it’s time to leave. One final hug and you’re on the plane back to Mahous and tortillas.
On opening your mailbox, you see bills. Bills are a grownup’s affair. You are a grownup!
You grab that Electricity and Gas bill and you grin.
You’re a man…Again.