Last night, we were welcomed back to Montreal with snow. Fat, sticky flakes, the kind I used to fantasize about before our big move. Hubby had to dig our car out of long-term parking before we could make the slippery journey back to our apartment, where the cats greeted us at the door, probably hoping we were the cat-sitter, who seems to have much more time and attention to give them than we have in the last 10 months.
We’ve missed a good chunk of winter here, instead spending four weeks of it in Hubby’s homeland, where the natives dress in puffy coats when the temperature dips below 70 and strangers shout reprimands to “put a hat on that baby!” Our most recent stay was in my father-in-law’s apartment. The home Hubby moved to with his family when he was eight years old. Sorting through his father’s belongings, Hubby was smacked with wave after wave of nostalgia, even driving me to see the building where he spent the first eight years of his childhood. For a little over a week, the health worker who had been living with his dad stayed with us, slowly moving his few possessions out of Hubby’s old bedroom and cooking us a few meals on days when there had been a constant stream of visitors paying their respects. After he left, after the family, friends, and neighbors stopped showing up, it was just the three of us in the apartment. Those were the days Hubby would sigh and say, “It would be perfect…if only my dad was here too.”
Amidst the public and private mourning, the sorting of documents and photos, and the arrangements to be made for what’s left behind, Hubby was able to catch up with one of his mother’s friends. She was much younger than his mom but considered her an older sister. They were both from South America and had a shared linguistic and cultural history. In addition to the many stories she shared with him, she also tried to warn Hubby about how difficult his country could be for immigrants, especially those from very different cultures. She said it would be difficult for him, too, returning after being gone for so many years. (Of course, her advice did not deter Hubby, but he has since reconsidered moving without a job in hand.)
She had gifts for each of us. Mine was a blessing for the home, good wishes for love and family, to be displayed in a place of prominence. I can’t quite bring myself to hang it here.
During our visit in December, we stayed in a hotel. I made a conscious effort to refer to our room there as “the hotel” rather than “home,” so as not to confuse baby girl about our temporary abode. But whenever I did talk about our current place of residence, I caught myself calling it “Montreal,” not “home,” either.
And then it occurred to me that, despite the disappointments of the past year regarding Hubby’s job, this is the only home my baby girl has ever known. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be in this apartment, in this city. But I owe it to her to treat it and think of it as home for as long as we’re here. I have to make the effort, not just for her, but for the three of us as a family.
Now to find a place to hang that blessing….