A friend reminded me yesterday that six years ago I was naturalised as a British citizen. After a lot of paperwork, expense and studying for a test called ‘Life in the UK’ that was frankly challenging even after living in this country since the age of 2, I was naturalised at a ceremony in Wandsworth. For years, as I passed through immigration with my Australian passport, the officer would ask me how long I’ve lived in the UK and that I should really get a British passport. But something stopped me for many years. I can’t explain why – maybe it was clinging onto that bit of my parents’ heritage. Eventually as I entered the world of employment and grew tired of explaining my permanent residency permit, I realised it was much easier this way.
But today I got thinking about that naturalisation ceremony six years ago and how it always makes me think about where I consider to be my home. For some of my friends, they grew up in the same village as I did and their parents did too so there is no doubt that that is what they consider their home. But for me it’s different. Having just returned from a trip to see my relatives in Melbourne, I feel such a sense of belonging when I am there; not to mention in Hong Kong too, where my Mum is from. I lived in Hong Kong until the age of two, where my parents tell me I was understanding and sometimes speaking Cantonese before we left. It struck me that all three of these places have such a special place in my heart. They are a part of me and even though I don’t visit often, that doesn’t matter one bit.
After coming here at the age of two because of my Dad’s work, we were brought up with a really clear sense of our heritage. Even down to the way we ate dinner each night, always eating together round the table ‘Chinese style’ with the dishes in the centre of the table. I never thought much of it until recently, but I suppose that’s natural. Why would you question something that is such a huge part of you. But when I had Emma, I now understand how hard it must have been for my Mum to engineer having dinner with four kids, 8 years apart…even with just one child, I find it difficult to schedule anything of the sort. When she wants to eat, there’s no delaying it! I’m so thankful for my Mum for doing this though, and it was this time together round the table that I remember for most of my childhood.
When I was pregnant with Emma, I had started to think about ‘home’ and creating a place for us all. Bringing traditions into the family that were our ‘thing’. I’d talk to my other half about his childhood and how he felt about it and together we have a little home that is really special for both the kids. It’s our little place and somewhere for all four of us, which I love. So what is home to me? Home is where all the people I love are, and for me that’s not just one place. Home is spending lazy weekend morning together in Brighton, it’s gathering at my parent’s house for a special occasion, it’s Melbourne, Hong Kong and perhaps more to come in the future too. Because it’s the people around me that make it and I can only hope that this is something we give Emma and James too.
What does home mean to you?