Away from home

I can't tell you how much I wish that my children lived nearer to me, or I nearer to my children.  This would be difficult as we have one in Manchester, one in Derby, and two near Oxford.  When my children were young I used to look at my friends who had local family and wish that my parents were not so far away and now that older son and older daughter have children of their own I am once again very aware of how different life would be if we were nearer.  The ease with which you could slip in and out of daily life looks very different from long distance keeping in touch, travelling, staying, being wholeheartedly in or entirely out of the picture.

This week I am with my older daughter in Oxford, helping her and the baby as they readjust to life back at home after three weeks in Japan.  It is odd to be in a rural place so different from mine.  The fields are big here, not flat like those in East Anglia but still open and mainly level, stretching away under crops.  There are no hills, no stone walls, no green, rather gold, no sheep, none of the small scale buzz of small farms, tractors working, animals being moved from one field to another.  It is beautiful here though and some of the villages are like pictures of that mythical perfect England you can imagine held deep in the memory of Victorian families sweating their lives away in India and Africa.

My little grandson is seven months old now, blue eyed and fair haired and round, full of smiles and laughter.  My daughter says that being with him in Tokyo and Kyoto was like travelling with a minor celebrity.  Elderly women and teenage girls were both likely to swoop down on him in the street or in the shops, beaming and calling out about how cute he is.   My daughter's Japanese extended to understanding the delighted shriek and knowing how to say how old he is and where they come from, and not much more.

Soon he will crawl and leave mayhem in his wake, and walk and talk.  He looks so like his father it is uncanny.  Sometimes the baby looks up at you and the expression on his face or the line of his eye or his lip is the man he will become.  He reminds me strongly of this poem:


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I am the family face;
Flesh perishes, I live on,
Projecting trait and trace
Through time to times anon,
And leaping from place to place
Over oblivion.

The years-heired feature that can
In curve and voice and eye
Despise the human span
Of durance -- that is I;
The eternal thing in man,
That heeds no call to die

Thomas Hardy 


  1. Lovely post, Elizabeth. My son just called from Ontario to tell me about another new word from each grandson - they are 34 mos and 19 months old and I miss them terribly.
    The poem was very touching. When I saw my grandson for the first time I was so moved to see a familiar face...he looked like my son. It was the first time that we'd had a baby in our family who looked like one of us, because our children and a sister's children are all adopted. I'll be sharing the poem with my son.

  2. I guess our living in France is part of our problem, as we have one in Australia, one in Scotland, and one in Sussex. Families just ain't the same nowadays!

    Bisou, Cro. (it was good to see you at the picnic!)

  3. ooo... sweet post - it would be so different to live closer...

  4. When I feel those same pangs of separation and distance, I am glad to know we have so many forms of communication, including the simple despised text, signalling Still Alive, Thinking of You.

    How terrible it must have been for those early migrants, many of whom knew that they would never return, and, for some, that they would never be able to send news either.

  5. We are lucky as Rachel says to have so many easy was of keeping in touch - but it doesn't make the separation easier.

  6. Great post, I love your description of rural Oxfordshire. I moved to Malvern in 2000 to be nearer my Mum and Dad so they could help with the boys and also so the boys felt like they were part of a family more. I wish I had done it earlier

  7. Life is a long stretch, we come in to fill a little portion and the rest will continue. There goes hereditary. ~bangchik

  8. Another lovely post. I lived in Japan for three years and total strangers would stroke the hairs on my arms saying "blonde, blonde".
    I live in the US, and my family is in Australia. This distance is insurmountable, and the time-difference makes even phone calls difficult. It's a constant gap between my life and my dream, that missing family.

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  10. I am wishing that I lived nearer my parents at the moment Elizabeth ~ same scenario really. Your little grandson sounds as if he created quite a stir :)

  11. Just had a major conversation with my other half about where we should live - do we move to be closer to his children? Do we settle somewhere where we like the climate and environment or stay closer to my family? Mine live in Canada, his live in Belgium and France. A fifty-fifty split seems likely, but that's only do-able if you have the resources and health to travel and maintain two place to live.

    I appreciate what you feel, and know that it's hard to be away from your kids. I would love to be able to drive to see mine instead of flying across an ocean!

  12. Wherever I am , I'm not within "let's have a coffee after work , or you bring some salad and I'll cook some spaghetti" or even babysitting distance . But I see them all fairly often and frequent phone calls of extraordinary length ( we are rather a gabby family ) are lovely too .
    But I do miss seeing Grandson , especially now he seems to morph into a different SuperHero each day !

  13. I adore this post. Well, I adore all of your posts tbh - fantastic to find such a gem of a blog that I can look forward to visiting. My own children are tiny ...but I have often fast forwarded in my head to the time when they will have flown the nest, as it were, and I feel immensely sad at that thought - but also acutely aware of how precious NOW is ,which makes me appreciate and savour these days more than ever.Motherhood.. the joy .. the pain..and the magic : )

  14. I had the same reaction from Italians to my blond-haired blue-eyed baby when we lived in Milan. It certainly made one feel very special!

    I also remember, when E was first born, how her crinkly little face - an old man's in a tiny new body - reminded me so much of my father and grandfather. It was extraordinary. The hand of God.

    I struggle with my parents being so far away - I feel they miss out on so many day to day things with my family (their only grandchildren) - and that I, too, am missing out on the latter years of their lives. It is really hard.

  15. Ps: love the poem. Very Thomas Hardy - and says it all.

  16. It's very hard to be far from family, but somehow you don't realise that until you've gone and made the move! Lovely post.

  17. How funny -- I had a similar experience with elderly Japanese ladies and my son. Sixteen years ago, when we were living in Australia, I took a ferry from Perth to Rottnest Island with my baby, a big, blue-eyed boy of 6-months. Sitting next to us were a group of Japanese ladies who made such a fuss him. He was taken (in the nicest way) from my arms and passed around delightedly among this group of ladies. What a nice break I had for that brief journey to the island. Anyway, always love checking in on your blog!


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