“Hello Gigi,” a voice said through the curtains.
In my surprise I jammed the grocery shopping in the front door, spilling bananas and frozen peas in a mushy mess. I stood bemused as my daughter and nine-month old granddaughter, she who will one day really call me Gigi, appeared. And then I burst into tears as my husband looked on grinning and my granddaughter, Ava, joined my sobbing; tired from another trans-Atlantic crossing and bemused by the crazy apparition reaching for her.
“What are you both doing here?” I hiccupped.
“We’ve come for your book launch, what else?”
A raft of questions floated around my addled brain. Where were going to put said daughter and granddaughter? We live in a Downtown loft with limited sleeping facilities. If we put them in the spare room, where would we put our guests arriving in two days time for their longed for break from the chill winds of Devon?
“It’s okay,” said my spouse reading my mind, “We’ve got it all figured out.”
And they did – the subject having been organised through long-distance conversations over the previous six weeks. My slight disappointment at not hearing from either of my children since the publication of my book disappeared in a second, realising neither had been able to talk to me for fear of letting the proverbial cat out of the bag. My husband had no such qualms and had merely responded to my miff with a shrug and a “Well they knew you were in DC last week, they’ll call!”
The book launch held in a local Colombian hostelry went off without a hitch. The glorious vase of pinks, daisies and roses sent by son, unable to make the journey due to work, took prominent place on the bar. The reading, a requirement stressed by my publisher, Summertime Publishing, went almost stumble-free and those present generously bought the book, Expat Life Slice by Slice, and then to add to my excitement lined up for it to be signed.
It is a book that describes the happiness, and the corresponding sadness, of a nomadic life. The joy of new countries and cultures lived in, the sorrow of not being present for parents dying. The excitement of early motherhood in The Netherlands, the dismay at sending a child to boarding school. It is though ultimately a positive book with few regrets.
And having my daughter make the tremendous effort to cross an ocean, with her baby in her arms, to be with me on a special day put paid to any fears I might ever have had that distance dilutes affection.
I don’t think I have ever been blasé about traipsing my children around the world as we transferred from country to country, and back again in some instances, but I certainly never surprised my parents, whether in Papua New Guinea or when they retired to England, by showing up at the door. I regret that now, and it took my daughter to show me.
There is every likelihood she, her partner and my grandchild will move to the island that was her first relocation as an eight-month old, Trinidad. I have no idea where my son will call home for a month, or a year, as his work promises the same mobility he had growing up. But I do know I was right when I wrote in my book that home for me is not in the bricks and mortar around me, but in my memories. And if my children happen to appear on my doorstep, anytime, anywhere, I may well spill more tears and groceries, but my memory bank will be greatly increased by their presence.
Global parenting, and grandparenting, has its drawbacks but the joy of the unexpected appearance of children and their children whether across a city or a continent knows no bounds.