December 19, 2018

France, Summer

Our summer trip to France is short – just ten days to see my whole family before we go abroad again, another year away from them. We stay at my mum for a few days, and Saoirse gets spoiled silly. She had taken a few steps before, but whilst at my mum's she starts properly walking. I never expected to feel this proud. Then we go see my sister. I always love staying in her house in the forest. She's moving this autumn, so it will be the last time I'll see this place, which makes it extra special. She's found a beautiful new house, next to the river, in a building that used to be an old school. In the morning light the place looks magical, and I am so happy for her. We have such different lives, but I have started to dream about living in a place like this one day – remote and quiet. As per tradition, we spend days by the river, having picnics and letting Saoirse nap in the shade.

We go on a camping trip, with Saoirse's uncles and cousins. I carry her up a big hill and her cousin makes her laugh the whole time we walk. She eats pasta cooked on a camping stove and stick her hands in the black soil, then smears it all over her food. She plays and plays as the light goes down and collapses in a small tent for the night. On the peaks all around us, the storm rages, and lightning lights up the wall of the tent, but our little camp is spared from the rain. In the morning she eats breakfast wrapped in my sleeping bag, watching the sun rise through the clouds. Her cousins dote on her so much, and it warms my heart that she gets to be with them here, even if she doesn't see them often.

Coming back to this place is somehow strange. Two years ago I was standing in this exact spot, watching the sun set over the blue mountains. I was about to leave for Ecuador. Three months later I was pregnant. Now I stand here with my one year old daughter, who has been taking her first steps this week. Next monday we will be moving to Asia. Life is weirder and more magical than any book I've ever read. I have a strange, strenuous relationship with this place. It's where I grew up. It's where I loved and grieved. It's where I ran away from. I find myself coming back and finding both pain and healing in the morning mist, the sharp sun on the rocks, the fresh taste of the river.

We go back to London and our last week is spent packing, running errands and going into town for paperwork. It's not the easiest week. As we are both packing in different rooms Saoirse escapes our sight and falls down the stairs. She's unharmed, but I feel upset for a long time. Then she has to get four vaccines and has a high fiver and a sore tummy. She has to come with us to embassies for paperwork and naps on the train home. With walking came a sudden need to be closer to me. She will happily walk by herself from room to room, but as soon as I put her down she will grab my leg and howl until I pick her up again. She's kissing everybody these days, putting her tiny arms around your neck and pressing her lips firmly on your face, with a “mmmmm” sound. It's really cute. Then finally it's the night before we leave, the house is empty, and all our stuff is packed. A year ago we came back from Ecuador and since then we haven't really lived anywhere for long – but now we're going to have a homebase again, and we are so ready.

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