The Smell of September

Josefswiese Park, Hardbrucke

Josefswiese Park, Hardbrucke

The world has turned.

It’s a little bit darker in the mornings. I’m taking a jacket out with me again as standard.

I’m feeling the flutterings of new life in my belly.

Nothing has changed, but everything has changed.

Again.

P has gone from crawling into our bed each morning at 5am to sleeping through past 7 sometimes. He’s also gone from a few weeks of whining and “nup” to everything back to a lovely(mostly) kid again. It’s so hard to tell with these phases – is it us? Is it him? Something else? Even though I’ve done this parenting thing for nearly 3.5 years now, I always forget that each phase only lasts a couple of weeks. The good and the bad.

I’m in a new phase too. I feel different. Things are OK. Somehow I’ve clicked over from raging against my fate to accepting things and it’s so much better (for now!). I am cool with the boy thing too – so much so that I almost can’t fathom why I was so upset.

Even the language – somehow a shift there as well. From worrying if I “could” or “couldn’t” if I was “good” or “bad” at German to realising I just have to learn it. It’s just knowledge that’s there to be gained and I am taking the classes, doing the study. It’s hard but not insurmountable, it just takes work. Work I can do.

Some piece of myself has returned and I’m organising stuff! I’ve been teeing up a few social engagements and going out to things, buying household items and planning travel. It feels good.

I went to this Motherhood Support Group the other night. Only three people of a projected six showed (including the organiser) but it was good to have a small group so everyone could say lots. We talked for nearly 3 hours! The organiser, who is a psychologist, expat and mother herself, said some interesting things about moving cities/countries/continents that I hadn’t thought of before.

When you cut yourself out of the fabric of your life and try to re-establish those threads of familiarity in a completely new environment, you lose so much. The subconscious things I hadn’t realised were smells and geography.

Smell is such a primal sense, not something you think about so often. When you relocate to a completely new place, you lose all those familiar scents of home. Even of your own home. The streets, the odour of your local newsagent, the office, the Tube. It’s very disorienting to be without all these smells. I almost cried when she said this – it’s so true! When I was in the nasty throes of morning sickness, with the bloody churchbells reverberating through my new apartment, I would crawl into bed and think “I hate the smell in here”. It was a completely innofensive odour of clothes, sheets, dust (I guess) but it was different to “home” – different washing powder, different water, new trees, less pollution.

Feeling a chill in the air this week, I found my nose reaching for the familiar Autumn smell of Horse Chestnut trees and fox shit. A smell I actually didn’t like. But it signalled something: London/Autumn/Now. And drawing a blank on that scent was really odd – like walking into an unlit room in my brain. Early Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. What does it smell like in Zurich? I don’t quite know yet.

Geography too. Just knowing the patterns of your local area – the well-trod journey to the train station, the local park, your corner shop. They build reassurance in the brain: I have been here, I know this, I know what I’m doing, I know who I am. Losing that is tough, it takes time to re-build those familiar routes, make new connections to your local landscape. It’s fascinating, and sort of terryfying to think how lost I felt without this. Also explains why my homesickness often takes the form of small yearnings for odd places – a nondescript corner of Castlereagh Street, Sydney. The view of the sky above the railway tracks as you walk down Bedford Street, Newtown past the Hub. My bit of the Thames as I strode across London Bridge to work. The curve of the path through a crappy Tottenham estate where I weekly pushed my newborn child in his buggy…

This week, we also had a lovely afternoon at Josefswiese park at Hardbrucke, where I’ve actually spent enough time for it to feel like a familiar friend now. When we came to Zuri in Summer 2013, with the move still very much up in the air, I took my son to this park and had my first “This is good, we could live here” moment.

I love it there. I’ve fallen in love with Josefwiese! For me, to fall in love with a place is important. It means taking it into my heart, owning it, but also giving something away. It’s that thing of committing, admitting vulnerability…  I now own a piece of that park and it owns me, a tiny part of my heart will be left there if and when we leave Zurich. And I’ll miss it and yearn for it in odd moments. Like my bit of the Thames in London, or that chunk of sky in Newtown.

And soon I’m going home. To one of my homes. Home, home, home. Oh Sydney, I can’t wait. But I’m working hard to make sure I want to come back to Zurich too.

 

 

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