Salmon Do It by Alexia Roumanas
You were an international child. What they call a TCK—Third Culture Kid. Two of your cultures have labels. Greek. Australian. The third is the identity that is comprised of both but somehow neither. It is also the strongest.
You were born in Sydney and raised in Athens. Your family moved there when you were six. You were supposed to stay for one year. Twenty-seven years later, your parents are still there, though even now your mother talks about moving back to Australia. Why doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
Your school was international. Kids were always coming and going. Everyone was asked where they were from. Travelling was the norm. You were desperate to leave Greece and be in the world. When you’re an adolescent, Home doesn’t feel like The World.
When you were 18, you moved to London. You didn’t bat at eyelid. Most of your peers were doing the same; British exams beget British universities. In those three years, you spent many nights calling collect in phone-booths, crying down the line to your mother.
For a long time afterwards, you flitted about. Still no eyelashes batted. Migrating was the norm when boredom arose. You left each time it for too real. You were a lack of commitment. You were catch-me-if-you-can. You were air.
But you were not rootless. Your roots dragged lightly wherever you flew. When you were tired or didn’t have anywhere to go, you went to Athens. You went home.
And then you catapulted yourself to Australia. You wanted to find the bit of you that wasn’t Greek and you thought you would find it in your birthplace.
You were about to fly away home when you met Him and immediately You and Him became We and a year later, We became Three. I’ll settle now, you thought. I have a family. I’ll stand still. And you did. And you are. But what you didn’t predict was that you’d be standing still in the wrong place.
There is nothing wrong with Sydney except that it isn’t home.
You are the tree that spread its branches to the sky & is now desperate to find its way back to the roots. It is primal, this sudden, strong urge to go home. You don’t know what you’re doing here. You have realised that your children will have a different home to you. Different memories on different streets. Different languages. Experiences unrelatable to you. Their home will be your foreign. Your home will be their holiday. You have realised that your children will not grow up with your friends as aunts and uncles. Your friends will not watch them grow, except in spurts. All of this makes you sad. When you see how close your son is to your mother-in-law, it makes you sad. He does not know your mother, not well, not yet.
You are the nomad, the drifter, the hippie that doesn’t belong anywhere, and you did not expect this. It feels wrong to be so far. You panic that you’re making a big mistake, but at the same time there is no choice. Your husband is not Greek, the Greek future is not bright and, after six years, you suspect that you are now too Australian for Athens. You have tried to explain to your husband that this is not the nomad speaking. This is not you running away. It is natural, you insist, to go to your birthplace to reproduce. Salmon do it. Turtles do it. It’s called ‘natal homing’. To which he has said, but this is your birthplace.
And he is right. Someone told you once that you needed to accept the Australian facets of your identity. You were born here for a reason. You believe that. Everything has its purpose. You came back for a reason. You met your husband. Life is quiet and drama-free, veering on boring. You are content. And yet you fight it. You struggle to quell the urge to take your family home to your tribe. You know now, after years of floating, where to find your tribe. And you are not with them.
But you are with your new family. You have one son. He is second-generation Australian. He has three cultures. All three of them have labels. Greek. Korean. Australian. You are half-empty without your home but you know that if you go back, he will not have the same privileges.. If you go back, he will inherit your restlessness. If you go back, he will struggle, like you did. As raw as it is, you have to admit that there’s good chance you’re just not ready to accept that your natal homing radar is working perfectly.
I am a mother and a wife. A domesticated nomad. I wandered through Athens, London, Hanoi and Melbourne and currently live in Sydney. We don't know yet if it's our forever home. I'm into dry wit, drier martinis, and eco-everthing. I need regular watering, and bloom erratically. It's possible I overuse commas, but I don't think so. I really like commas and always pay attention to them when reading by pausing accordingly.