I used to feel homesick a lot when I was first living in Montana.
I would kind of dive into the feeling, longing so hard to just feel fine sand beneath my feet and smell fishy, minerally sea air.
To walk across dry, crackling good smelling eucalyptus leaves and be in the harsh Australian sun, mildly wary of snakes and feeling the skin on my neck crisp.
Now the homesick feelings have tapered off, partly because I’m pretty used to coming and going, and partly because I have two kids and a lot less time to think!
But it still sneaks up on me sometimes …
We were in Missoula visiting friends and picking my father in law up from the airport last weekend and I walked down to the Good Food Store, a huge organic grocer down the street.
It took me long seconds to figure out that the cashier was Australian. She just sounded funny – I thought maybe she was deaf.
When I realized, I asked her “are you Australian?” and she said, without looking up, and in a tired voice “yep, good guess.”
And then I said something, a simple communication: “I have some bags” and her head bolted up and she said “are YOU Australian?” and we looked at each other for a second. I was so happy in that moment. To see yourself in someone else – a stranger. What a powerful force national identity is.
I wanted to hang around and listen to her talk to people, but that would have been weird, so we quickly established that she was from Tassie and I from the South Coast of NSW and I loaded my bags and walked away.
I do, of course, talk to my family sometimes. And every year, we have had at least two visitors from Australia, so I hear the accent. But it’s different when it’s people you know, and know well.
So sometimes I call our Australian bank or the mortgage company. Usually, there is a reason, like a blocked bank card, but sometimes I call for an account balance I can access online in two seconds.
And when the recorded ad reel begins in a broad Aussie accent, I relax. When the sales rep answers, I melt further, allowing my voice to flatten, the ends of words to run into one another.
I cut my words in half and relish it. I say ‘dodgy’ and ‘I reckon’, try to work in ‘shed’, ‘ute’, ‘relo’s’ and ‘veranda’. For a five minute conversation with Kirsty from St George, I am so Australian it hurts.
Then I hang up and step out into early spring.
Sleet/snow/rain is falling – what the weather stations quaintly call “a wintry mix.”
Thin slashes of icy slush hit my face and I breathe in the grey light. I am here, I am choosing to be here with Haak and our Montana family and I know now that even this wintry weather will soon bring spring.