As autumn reaches its end and the last leaves slowly flutter to the ground, I thought I would share a few more photos of autumn’s beauty…
“…The year’s last, loveliest smile.” William Cullen Bryant
I have always loved autumn. All four seasons have something beautiful to offer, but for some reason, autumn holds something special for me. Growing up I didn’t always live somewhere with four proper seasons, which meant that for many years I didn’t get to enjoy a true fall. I was lucky to spend my first years as a kid playing in leaves and watching the beautiful fall colors in Wisconsin…But I admit that I mostly remember jumping into the leaves! After we left the U.S. it was quite a while before I saw a proper autumn again. Mexico and Sydney barely had fall and the Philippines definitely didn’t have those temperate seasons since it’s tropical… I had to wait several years before seeing four well-defined seasons and my beloved autumn once again.
When we moved to France, I rejoiced at being able to see and feel each individual season. They all had their time, they were not fleeting or melting together; they were four distinct seasons. And finally, I found autumn again. The colors lit me up inside and the crisp fall air made me want to laugh out loud, for no particular reason other than feeling so alive and so invigorated. And autumn does that to me every year. The years when fall isn’t so prominent or passes by quicker, I feel the absence and I long for that season I love so much.
Then three years ago my husband and I moved to New England, and I suddenly experienced autumn like I never had before. This is now our fourth autumn here and every year I am amazed by the beauty this season has to offer in this part of the world. Although I love fall, I do love all of the other seasons too and so it was always difficult for me to choose just one favorite season… But here in New England, it’s easy. Autumn is by far my favorite season here. None of the other seasons inspire me and invigorate me the way fall does. There is something so exhilarating about the crisp autumn air and the clear blue sky. The flowers in the spring are lovely and bright, but it’s hard to compete with the rich jewel tones of autumn leaves.
There’s something about this season that makes me want to explore and try new things. I want to write more, take more photos, see new parks, go for long walks and just be outside. I want to feel the cool air turning my cheeks pink, heading back inside with windswept hair and hands full of colored leaves. Then I want to sit down with a mug of hot chocolate or tea and watch the glow of the sun on the fiery trees.
Whether I got to see fall every year or not doesn’t matter. I get to experience it now and I intend to take advantage of every minute.
“I loved autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it.” Lee Maynard
I have always loved all four seasons,
They each have their beautiful reasons.
But one stands out above them all,
My favorite and glorious fall.
Winter is biting and cold,
Hiding everything in its frosty hold.
Although a snowflake is magical to behold,
Its novelty soon becomes old.
Spring is a well of showers,
Followed by beautiful flowers;
But the pollen falls in powders,
Making me rue the spring hours.
Summer is golden and bright,
The sun setting with a glowing light.
Although it may seem just right,
After a while I long for the heat to take flight.
The autumn sky is clear and blue,
And the grass is damp with dew.
The trees know their cue
And begin to change their leaves anew.
I love winter’s sparkling white
And spring’s colorful delight.
I am warmed by summer’s golden light,
But I am exhilarated by autumn’s sight.
I have always loved all four seasons,
They each have their beautiful reasons.
But one stands out above them all,
My favorite and glorious fall.
When September comes around, with schools starting and autumn just around the corner, I can’t help but think about all of my Septembers as a TCK. Obviously the first thoughts that come to mind are all those times I was a new kid – like I mentioned in an earlier post. But then there are all sorts of other things that September was synonymous with, and I thought I would share some here…
Lazy summer days roll into cool autumn nights,
As flocks of birds begin their migrating flights.
Notebooks, pens, pencils and other school supplies
Line the shelves all along the supermarket aisles.
Excitement, trepidation, laughter and tears…
Depending on whether the new year means facing friends or fears.
Leaves changing on the trees,
Fluttering in the early autumn breeze.
Red, orange, yellow and gold,
With autumn officially taking hold.
September is a month of change, of beginnings and ends,
In school, seasons and friends.
I’m happy that autumn is approaching, as I’m ready for the cooler temperatures, the brightly colored leaves, snuggling under blankets and drinking hot chocolate… But I loved the summer and all it entailed this year – road trips, air trips, beaches, champagne, exploring new places and fondly re-discovering childhood ones, burgers and shandy, lots of family, lots of laughter and lots of love…
… And also a wedding celebrated among wildflowers and butterflies. Although the scenery was beautiful, it was the love and celebration that really made this special. Since it was a cousin getting married, it meant lots of family, which is the best way to go. Lots of family means LOTS of fun, laughter, great conversations and most importantly love. It always feels so good to be surrounded by family and I feel so lucky to have them all, no matter where we are in the world.
… Beautiful views of Vermont on our drive back from Montreal, after visiting some cousins and my grandma. It was a wonderful, memory-filled weekend, visiting places I hadn’t seen in 12 years and that were a huge part of my childhood. We reminisced about all the mischief we managed growing up, and I got to show my husband some places that are very special to me. It reminded me yet again how lucky I am to have this amazing and close-knit family, despite the distances that separate us…
… And then there was the extra-special trip of the year: our honeymoon in St. Croix. We had much to celebrate – 10 years of being together, 2 years of marriage, and the honeymoon itself – and we made sure to enjoy every minute! From the warm Caribbean Sea, to sunset shows; from a day out on the catamaran to snorkel in the most pristine water, seeing rays, turtles and barracudas (not to mention all the other amazing sealife!), to dancing on the terrace after dinner… It was simply amazing and we made memories to last us a lifetime…
Until next year summer…
For many people ‘home’ is a fixed notion – a house, a city, a state, a country… But for many others, including TCKs, home is a much more fluid, less tangible notion. Home is a place of comfort and solace, a safe haven. Home is the presence of loved ones, wherever in the world that may be. Home is those oft-read books with creased bindings that are lovingly unpacked from boxes time and time again. Home is the trinkets sitting on shelves – each one makes you smile and brings back fond memories. Home is not a geographically fixed location; throughout our lives we’ve called many places home, but really home moved with us every time. Home is where you love and laugh.
When we first arrived in France, I never thought I would grow to love it like I have. We had just left Sydney and I was very unhappy. I missed the rich blue sky of Australia, the ocean, and my friends. I felt I could never be as happy in another place, as TCKs often do, and I resented being in Paris. If someone had told me then that I would fall in love with Paris and with France as a whole, I would have dismissed that comment, saying it was impossible. I was so very wrong. France, especially Paris and Provence, has a hold on my heart that no other country has ever had. It is the country I lived in the longest, and it is home in so many ways, even if I’m not living there currently. I have loved and laughed more there than anywhere else in the world. Paris gave me the love of my life, and Provence sealed that love with our wedding.
I love Paris very much, and I’m so lucky to have spent many beautiful years there, but no place calms me and invigorates me quite like Provence. From the first moment we visited, spending 3 weeks of summer exploring the gorgeous region, it had a hold on us. Perhaps it’s the rich green vineyards, heavy with their colored grapes, or the lavender fields filling the air with their sweet fragrance, or perhaps the proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, or the culture, the history, the food…There are so many reasons to entice you to stay, that it is hard to tear yourself away.
When we first went to Provence, I never imagined that I would choose to get married there. I believed I would marry wherever I was living, wherever was ‘home’ at that time. But knowing I could get married somewhere I could go back to, somewhere that meant so much to me, but also to my husband and my family, was so special. It means that I can return to the beautiful church where we got married, that I can sleep in the house where we celebrated, that I can see the same views I saw on our beautiful wedding day.
When my parents decided to get a house in Provence, I thought it was a nice idea, but I didn’t know then that it would also become a home. It wasn’t just walls and a garden, it was a true safe haven, a place of love and laughter; a place to call our own. After so many years of packing up and moving home with us, we finally had somewhere to go back to. For the first time in my life, a fixed location could begin to define home.
Home is indeed where you love and laugh, but it turns out that home is also a house is the heart of Provence.
The first time I heard the term “third culture kid” I was in 10th or 11th grade. By that time I was living in my 6th country and attending my 5th school – I had been living as a TCK my whole life without ever knowing there was a special name for us. I remember someone came and spoke to us during an assembly. The funny part is that I don’t remember what he/she talked about specifically but I remember hearing about third culture kids for the first time and realizing that that’s what we were. It wasn’t necessarily an epiphany or and “a-ha” moment; it was more “wow, that’s us. We’re TCKs. Pretty cool.” It probably had more of an impact on me later, but it was still a moment of profound understanding…and also of pride. I thought it was pretty awesome that we were third culture kids and that our lifestyle could be understood by others. It also explained why we could all relate to each other even if we’d lived in completely different countries. It wasn’t the locations or languages that allowed us to have this unspoken understanding; it was the shared experience of growing up across continents and oceans. Each of us knew the goodbyes, the packing and unpacking, the anxiety of a first day at school, the heartbreak of leaving a home, and that ‘home’ is so much more than a fixed location. We know all that and so much more. Those are the invisible bonds that tie us TCKs together, that allow us to connect with each no matter how different our geographical paths may have been. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s a community I’m very proud to be a part of.
As I’ve gotten older, I realized how that community continues to grow every year and how lucky I am to have grown up at a time when people were talking and writing about TCKs. I know that many older TCKs didn’t have a sense of understanding of why they felt the way they did or how their life impacted them so much. Since graduating from high school 10 years ago, I’ve seen just how much my life as a third culture kid shaped me, and how much that experience will always be part of who I am. It’s only when you leave a TCK environment that you really notice the impact of the life you led and how much it sets you apart. I’ve really become aware of that over the past few years and especially since I’ve moved back to the U.S.
It seems that being away from any TCK environment unlocked something in me – I wanted to write about my experiences, and I wanted to read stories of others like me. My Christmas list included David C. Pollack and Ruth E. Van Reken’s book Third Culture Kids – Growing Up Among Worlds, my notebook is filled with stories and memories of my life as a third culture kid, and I started this blog. Suddenly I had so much I wanted to say, so many stories I wanted to share, and such a strong desire to connect with others who understood. I learned early on that writing brought me a special kind of comfort that I didn’t find elsewhere and writing about my experiences, sharing them and communicating about them has been both cathartic and enriching.
It’s only recently that I fully realized just how pivotal that moment of enlightenment was for me, all those years ago. It opened up a world of understanding and led to a lifelong fascination for this community I’m so lucky to be a part of. Those words helped explain my life to those who hadn’t lived it and strengthened the bonds with those who had. I was proud when I found out I was a third culture kid and that pride has only grown with time. You may not choose to be a third culture kid, but you can choose to embrace the experience and the adventure. It may be difficult at times, but what you gain from it and how you grow from it makes every tough moment worth it. Being a third culture kid, and what you learn from that incredible journey, is something that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Gathering clouds darken the sky,
As the rain pours down with a sigh.
Lightning flashes through the sky
With thunder rumbling in reply.
Rain drops like waterfalls from the sky,
And the ground drinks it up, thirsty and dry.
The wind tears across the sky,
Causing loose leaves to float, drift and fly.
Soon we see again blue sky,
With sun piercing through with a sigh.
Behold the beauty of nature in the sky,
Where dreams float and drift and fly.
Many things come to mind when thinking of summer: sunshine, ice-cream, vacation, lounging on the beach, late nights, cool drinks… But for me, and many other TCKs, summer was also synonymous with change. Sometimes we would watch best friends move away and other times we were the ones leaving. Either way it meant change, adapting to yet another new situation and having to figure it out all over again. When we were moving there were obviously greater challenges and those summers were truly a period of transition.
The summers when we were moving we rarely went directly to the new country. Once school would finish in June, we would pack up the house, ship everything off with the moving company and we would head off to spend the summer with family. At least that way we could enjoy our vacation as much as possible before having to confront the inevitable challenges awaiting us. It was, in my humble adult TCK opinion, a very smart move to allow us this transition period, this pause, in between countries. It softened the blow of leaving our home and gave us strength to deal with arriving in a foreign place. Spending the summers with cousins and grandparents, being surrounded by loved ones and familiarity eased the pain of loss and of sorrowful goodbyes. It reminded us that some things remain constant and steady, even when everything around us seemed to be a whirlwind of change. It also reinforced our belief that time and distance do not alter true friendship and love.
Summers are meant to be a time of joy, fun, laughter and carefree days. We were lucky to enjoy those moments, but for TCKs moving to a new country the summer was much less carefree and relaxed. While others were still enjoying their last lazy days of summer lounging in the sun or chatting with friends, we were unpacking boxes in an unfamiliar house, trying to find our way in foreign roads and dreading the first day at a new school. It wasn’t always easy, and we were grateful for the summers when we weren’t moving, but it was all part of the experience. And despite all the tough moments, I would do it again, without a doubt.
Those summers of change provided valuable lessons that will last me a lifetime and they taught me how resilient I really am. A restful summer is always welcome, but show me the next opportunity for change, and my TCK itchy feet are ready for the next adventure!
I hope you all have a great summer, wherever you may be, and good luck to any of you going through a summer of a change.