That familiar smell of Starbucks coffee and books… Here I am, back again 1 and a half year later, at my favourite bookstore Barnes and Nobel’s in Webster, New York. Sitting in my little corner with my coffee and all the books I’ve already managed to buy in no time. It feels like a dream that I am here again. I didn’t think that I would come back this quickly.
On my way here I’ve had plenty of time to reflect and I thought a lot about the feeling of “feeling home”. Where is home? Usually when we start a conversation with people the first question is “where are you from” – well that’s easy. I always reply “from Bosnia, this is where I was born and lived until I was 10”. However it becomes tricky when I need to reply to the question “where is home?” I always stop and pause. I’ve lived in different countries through my life and I don’t really have a home base anymore. So I realized that home is where the people I love are, it’s the little moments, little things that make me happy and its places that wake up certain beautiful memories. I will never feel complete in one place, because I’ve left little pieces of my heart wherever I went, and wherever I go, there will always be a little part of me missing something else. But I guess that’s the beauty of it all.
Coming back to Webster, New York felt like coming back home. Being here made me realize how much I’ve missed it all – everything from listening to my host kids’ stories to sitting here with my books and my coffee. I took everything so much for granted while I was here. As au pairs we always found something to complain about. But really, our biggest problem was our host kids yelling at us. I can just sit and laugh about it all now. I always focused on the little things that annoyed me and not on the bigger picture. First when your year is over you actually see how much you’ve gained and how all the challenging moments made you stronger. Imagine how boring it would have been if everything was just so perfect?
I flew to Toronto and took the Megabus to Rochester, NY. My dear host mom and my three loves were waiting for me with a big sign saying “welcome back to your home in U.S.A Irina”. My youngest host kid now knows how to write and they all wrote a little cute note on the sign. So much love on one piece of paper! It melted my heart! On the top of that I got so many hugs and kisses. I was honestly a bit afraid that they might have forgotten a bit about me and if they would think it is awkward to see me again. But no, it was the total opposite.
In front of the house, on the ground they wrote “welcome back Irina” and they drew hearts around.
The house still looks the same, smells the same (I’ve always loved the detergent my host family are using to wash their clothes with LOL), my room – I felt, the way I’ve left it that’s the way it welcomed me back, the black bananas were still in the bowl in the kitchen (my host dad would leave them for me cause I love eating my oatmeal with them), the cashier at the supermarket Wegmans remembered me (it says a lot about how much time I used to spend in Wegmans LOL) and they even still play the same songs on the radio. Nothing has really changed. Except me. I have changed, my way of looking at it all now has changed. It was like when I went back to Denmark, everything was the same, except me. This felt the same way, just the other way around.
I have enjoyed every second of being here. I’ve visited all my favourite places, restaurants, parks, coffee shops and stores. I’ve spend time with my dear host family: Irish dance competition, swim meet, swimming at the Y, singing together in the car, bedtime stories, games in the garden, lunch with each of the girls at their schools, long talks and wine with my host mom and a whole day with my host mom in Fairport with a long walk, delicious lunch and hugs.
At the Irish dance competition I got a chance to see my host grandparents again from both sides. It was so good to see them all again. I can’t describe the feeling with words, so much love I’ve felt in my heart. When I was living in USA the grandparents treated me like their own grandkids. Grandma Carrie (from my host dad’s side) told me “Irina, I wasn’t even sad when you left, because I knew that you were going to come back again, you are part of us”. It was such a wonderful day.
Webster, New York is one of my homes. My host family is my second family and I know that they always will be part of my life. Leaving them again wasn’t easy, I couldn’t hold my tears back, but I just know that I will come back again. They are a big part of me now and they have a special place in my heart. I can’t wait to follow my host kids, see where they are going to end up and what they are going to do in the future.
If I had to give an advice to current au pairs I would say: Remember to enjoy it, because, before you know it you will be on your way back again and you are going to miss everything. Remember that your experience will always stay with you – both the bad and the good, but mostly the good. The challenging parts will make you stronger once you get on the other side. Make the best out of it – create bucket lists and always remind yourself why you chose to do it in the first place. As my host grandpa Healy said “Don’t wait till you are old as me to do something Irina, if you want to do something, do it now”.