“Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.”Nathaniel Hawthorne
The first day we searched. The street, the apartment, the keys, the light switch – we had to look for them all, one at a time. We were perpetually hunting, but with no map that said – “Don’t worry, you are here, your destination lies there, your friends are all around you, your troubles lie behind you and only happiness lies ahead”. The sun, ascendant, refused to guide us with signs of East or West.
In the blinding heat, we shambled down cavernous streets looking for number 16. We clung to the narrow strip of shadow like a cliff edge. But the buildings had no numbers and no one was out in the midday sun. Everyone else knew where they belonged.
Eventually we found it, the landlady let us in, expressing both frustration and acceptance for our late arrival. When she closed the door behind her, we sat and listened for a moment to the silent air conditioner as it began to suck the heat out of the air. We had left our home of six years 24 hours before. We had a dozen bags with us and a rented car that could park itself, but there was nothing in the fridge.
The next day we found a house to rent, we moved in two weeks later.
At first the children knew that it was hot, and that heat meant ice cream. Later the weather receded in their minds and they noticed other things were different. Language washed over them and the change from one tongue to another had no apparent effect on them. While they blithely frolicked in sprinklers, we reverted to the childish state of petty frustrations. We knew what we wanted, but couldn’t make the adults around us understand; sometimes the gap between our desires and our words reduced us to pointing.
But gradually, daily living came easier. For the children, the present was all that mattered and our neighbourhood made them welcome – there were playgrounds at every corner, buses to cut long walks short and cafes to serve them juice and croissants. Tomorrow was forever away to them. But their tomorrows now had a parallax view – the expansion of possible futures meant their future lives looked different depending on our mood, our fancy. They had escaped a country where their lives were lived on a track, each station a fixed point on a straight line. Now, the track branched and gave way to the sea where everyone made their own way.