I have many homes, places where I’ve lived, places that I’ve felt a part of or a deep connection with. I know I have found one of my many homes when I feel that deep feeling of belonging and comfort, that feeling where you understand everything even if you understand nothing. That feeling you get where you aren’t afraid to be away from everything that you knew before. Even if you are a foreigner, in this place, that really isn’t the case, maybe in your language barriers, your cultural understandings and your accent but not in your heart. You’re no longer just a foreigner but a foreigner that happens to also have some level of a sense of belonging. This is the feeling I get when I go back to Nantes, especially when I see my host family from when I studied abroad.
Unfortunately, I was not able to fly home for Christmas. Unfortunately, money does not grow on trees (though that’s probably a very good thing), but alas, I was not far from home after all. I stayed with Les Dufourqs, the French family that I lived with while I was studying abroad, and it felt like I had never left to begin with. Every time I go back, they treat me like one of their own family members. They even tell me that I’ve become une vraie française now. I find extreme comfort in this.
I arrived on Wednesday morning, and my host dad picked me up from the train station. When I got back to their home, I was able to stay in the room that I lived in while I studied abroad because the American from this semester had left already. It was glorious. I felt right at home, and I even saw books on the bookshelf that I had left there before I left to go back home to the states at the end of my semester abroad. It really made me smile to know that I had left my mark, despite having been their 16th student. With Les Dufourcqs, I never felt like just another student that stayed with them. I am a part of their family now, in the transient, international way that I can be. This I know: I will always be welcome in their home with open arms, for this I am extremely thankful.
Not only was Christmas made wonderful by staying with my French host family, but I also was able to see for the very first time how Christmas is celebrated in France. Quelle chance!
Instead of a giant ham, fish and duck fill their Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner tables. Champagne and wine all around at every meal. Clementines instead of cranberries. Mass late on Christmas Eve. Though I am not Catholic, l have now gone to three masses (all three in France), and I can honestly say that I truly appreciate a good Catholic mass. I can admit that I don’t understand what is going on 100% of the time, however, I find some parts of it so spiritual. This, I love. Also, something else that I noticed that was different is that they don’t put baby Jesus into the Nativity scene until after the Christmas Eve mass. I’m not sure if this is a Catholic tradition, a French tradition, or a French Catholic tradition. Either way, I found it fascinating, because baby Jesus is in our nativity scene all December long. For me, it didn’t bother me being at a mass because the Church, no matter what denomination, is always God’s house, and all Christians, no matter what denomination or nationality, are my brothers and sisters in Christ.
My host family also made me feel a member by getting me Christmas gifts, which I definitely was not expecting at all. I felt thankful just being able to be with them on this holiday, but it was quite lovely to feel even more a part of the family by this gesture.
Most of the time, I just hung out. I read books, played games, watched movies (in French of course!), ate amazing food, drank amazing wine, and listened to old school American rock and soul music with my host dad. Kind of a lazy few days, but it was nice to relax and be with people I care deeply about.
I also did have the chance to Skype with all the various members of my family and watch them unwrap the gifts that I sent them. I miss them terribly so, but I’m coming home May 6th. So, alas, 4 and a half more months left here in France, and I’ve now reached the point where I’m satisfied with being here. Frankly, I definitely don’t want to leave any time soon.
Being here, away from my family but with my host family, I’ve come to realize that home is what you make it and family is what you make it. Yes, I’m sad that I’m away from my real family, but I’ve made a home for myself here, one that I am sure that I can always come back to. One of the unfortunate realities that I’ve had to come to accept is that my many homes will never really become one, but I’ve also realized that Heaven is my true home. So, I might as well make as many homes on Earth as possible until I get there. The more homes, the better, that way, I’ll always have a place to go, no matter where I am in life. For this also, I am thankful.
Living that expatriate life always and loving it always.
Until next time….
A plus mes amis….