‘We go to lots of houses’, says Billy to our friend as we leave her house.
It has been a happy afternoon of catching up on the months that have passed since we were last together, playing with friends who used to be a regular fixture in our weeks and enjoying the comfortable warmth of English summer sun.
Our English trip is filled with many houses, as Billy says, but more importantly familiar faces. People who fill my heart with joy as we reconnect, and break that same heart a little as we say goodbye. Our whistle-stop tour is made up of many hellos, and often same-day farewells. It produces an emotional rollercoaster of highs, lows and a certain level of exhaustion that I, naively, hadn’t anticipated.
But it is wonderful. Nearly two years of time and distance, but more often than not it feels like we were in the same room just yesterday. I have a new-found appreciation for friendships that can pick up where we left off, and for the constants of cups of tea around a kitchen table or kids playing in a park while mums chat.
The strangest thing about being here is the separate ‘there’ of our American life. Familiarities of ‘home’ fill our days while we enjoy being back in England, but our daily lives are anchored the other side of the Atlantic. The hint of an accent as the boys talk with their English friends is a reminder, and the texts that fly in from precious friends over there. The pandemic realities that mean no-one has visited contributes to the separation. Sitting here, at the kitchen table in Leyland, it’s hard to imagine being back in the humid heat of Illinois. But sitting there, enjoying the fabric of the life that we’ve settled into, it’s hard to envisage ourselves doing life here.
And so we take one day at a time. Thankful for the joy of being back, and stopping myself dwelling too much on the goodbyes. All the while, remembering that we are where God would have us be for His purposes and for our good.
Good that is most definitely evident in our American life, despite the stretched heart of being caught between two places.