Extreme homesickness is not something I recall having ever experienced. I've always loved to travel and flew the nest at a relatively early age. Whilst I visit as often as possible and my parental home is and always was a welcoming and love-filled one (with a stuffed fridge), I've never really suffered the pangs of longing to return.
In my parenting naivety, I hadn't seriously considered the notion that my five-year-old daughter might start to pine for the fjords, or more accurately the cat and her kindergarten.
Three quarters of the way through a four week holiday on the other side of the world, we are all having a fabulous time. It's our third trip Down Under as a family, but the first time our little girl has been old enough to appreciate the experience. And she has had some fabulous adventures.
Swimming in the sea for the first time with a mask and snorkel, she can't stop talking about all the fish she has seen. There's been a ride on a fire engine, a lighthouse tour and she even got to stroke a sting ray. The most recent box ticked was skateboarding. Every day holds some kind of new encounter and she seems to be having a ball.
Last week, we took a ferry trip over to Penguin Island, which basically does what it says on the tin. Insanely cute penguins with the added bonus of pelicans, seals and a veritable plethora of amazing wildlife. For a five-year-old, there was much to do and see, with the "aww" factor playing a key role. On the return journey, she was full of beans, challenging with gusto my explanation as to the unsuitability of penguins as pets.
As she climbed into bed, yet again exhausted from a day of fun, frolics and sunshine, she appeared unusually subdued:
"How many sleeps until we go home mummy?"
Well, I wasn't expecting that! Further questioning revealed that she was indeed having a wonderful time, but was missing our cat and was looking forward to seeing her friends in kindergarten. A little homesick basically.
It is not however an untreatable condition, nor are the symptoms constant. The occasional query about the proximity of our return date and concern over the cat's welfare can be very easily and efficiently deflected. Mention of an afternoon on the beach or even a stroll to the ice cream parlour and suddenly Australia is her favourite place in the world, home forgotten.
Nevertheless, her question and comments gave me cause to reflect. My father is fond of the saying "People make places" and I tend to agree. The trouble is of course, my little girl cannot yet decide which people and which places. Here in beautiful Western Australia, she has the security of her parents' presence, she has met her cousin for the first time and is being spoiled rotten by my brother.
But she misses the cat and her friends in kindergarten. And I get that.
I live in Germany and my brother, whom I love more than life itself lives in Australia. Though we are content with our lives, we are far from each other, our family and a large portion of friends.
My little girl struggled to explain what she wanted, "The beach and Uncle John and my cousin and the fish and the snorkeling and the penguins and the kindergarten and the cat. You know all together."
I know exactly what she means.