This love month is not only for expressing our love for our expat partners. There are other people and objects of our affection like our home countries. This month we, trailing spouses, talk about our homesickness, our longing for our home countries, which we do love in more ways than one.
I left my home town, when I was 17, and my family now lives elsewhere. Although, I have friends and relatives, who remain there, I haven’t visited for quite a few years now. I didn’t have much time before and at the moment it is not safe. There’re many horrible things being said about this region and its people and I know that the same is being said by some of these people about the other parts of Ukraine. This whole situation is horrible and wrong, having the country divided and its own people fighting. We think we learn from the history, but we don’t really, not when the situation comes close to us, when it becomes personal. Name calling, distancing from each other, dehumanising the enemy and turning lives into statistics. This is what’s happening at my home and I surely don’t miss that. Today, I will tell you instead what I miss, the feelings, sounds and smells of my childhood.
Most of my childhood memories are about the end of spring and summer. Sure, I remember cold snowy and icy winters, wet autumns and windy beginnings of springs, but it’s when the warmth comes, my land fully comes to life. It is located among Ukrainian steppes, widespread fields, hills and occasional pine forests. The sun is gentle at first, letting you savour it, enjoy it, allowing all grasses and trees to get into full bloom, but then by mid summer it scorches, burns, turning the leaves yellow and brown and filling the air with the smell of hot earth and sage.
At spring I would still be in the city, going to school. The first messages of spring would come with the tiny blue flowers, scilla, emerging from under the snow and you knew it would quickly get warmer from now on.
When all the trees are still awakening and it’s just that indescribable smell of spring in the air, it’s time for the apricots to bloom. If you walk just a little away from the centre of the city, you would find streets of private houses and each and every one of them would have at least one apricot tree in the front garden. The streets turn white and pink and the smell.. I can’t describe it, but it makes your head dizzy and feels you with a silly happy feeling.
And then it’s time for another favourite of mine – chestnuts. It takes them just a couple of days in the warm sun to open those bright green palms of leaves and release white blooming candles.
Branches of a birch would swing in front of our window with their newly grown emerald leaves, throwing shade and letting sun play on the walls. We had a bird house set up on this tree and every year my grandpa would show me how a starling would repeat a song that he whistled.
Then it was time for the lilacs to fill the air with their aroma and it meant that the school is finished and we are all free for the summer.
And summer would come with a sweet smell of an acacia tree in the yard. My grandpa told me, how they would eat these flowers, when he was a kid, and, of course, I had to taste them as well.
During the school holidays, I would spend a lot of time with my grandpa in our countryside house, dacha, and that would be a whole different picture. While the city gets suffocatingly hot and dusty, giving some relief only late at night, in the countryside you would get more breeze, green shade of the garden and a cool escape by the river. My grandpa loved fishing and I grew to love it as well. We would go to the nearby river at dawn, sit down quietly with our fishing rods and watch how fog is slowly lifted under the rays of rising sun. It didn’t matter how much fish we caught, we were there for the freshness of the water, silence, disturbed only by dragonflies and birds, and that precious peaceful feeling of fishing together.
Growing by the river, there were these old tall linden trees. We could reach the flowers on the bottom branches and collect some for making a sweet smelling tea later on.
The day would heat up and all the smells of the steppe herbs would mix in the air. I often went with my grandparents to collect thyme, growing on the meadows around. Those tiny purple flowers on stalks dried by the summer sun. I could actually find them by following their smell; it would often mix with sage, which grew all around. Strong and bitter scent of the fields.
Another smell, which I associate with home, comes from marigolds and it is also bitter. I think, it is this mixture of bitterness and heat, which would describe my land so well.
My grandparents loved herbal teas and in addition to collecting wild flowers, they would also grow some in their garden. They always had mint and calendula planted in any free corner. I always helped them pick those plants and could occasionally enjoy a mint tea, but have you ever tried a drink with calendula? Yes, that’s right, it’s bitter.
By the end of the summer, all the grass and the trees in the city would already be yellow and brown, not from the coming winter, but from the summer heat, but on our dacha it would still be colourful. The air would smell of aster and apples.
Kalina berries would already be the brightest shade of red and we would be all unhappily picking sandthorn berries, constantly feeling jabs of its thorns. Later, during the winter, bunches of red and oranges berries would hang down in my grandpa’s room and all the family would enjoy hot aromatic teas – sour kalina and bitter sandthorn berries – filling up those vitamin levels for the cold months ahead.
I hope, I was able to describe at least a little of what my land really is. I also hope, there will be peace again and then those who live there would be able to notice those scenes and scents again, like they could before.
Read more about other trailing spouses’ experiences with homesickness:
– Elizabeth of Secrets of a Trailing Spouse shares how homesickness wasn’t what she expected
– Clara of The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide tells how she has been homesick all her trailing spouse life
– Tala Ocampo writes about the Life that Was in the Philippines and how she would still say yes to the trailing spouse life
– Yuliya of Tiny Expats relives the sensory experience of being back home
– Jenny of My Mommyology explains why we become homesick in the first place
– Didi of D for Delicious talks about her love-hate relationship with her home country
All photos taken from Google Images.