Migration has been a recurring theme in my life and family history.
My mother’s ancestors left Ireland in the nineteenth century to seek a better life in what was then the frontier of Canada’s Ottawa Valley.
Her lone Scottish ancestor, my great-great grandfather, left a village near Glasgow in 1820 while still an infant. His family was part of the Lanark Society Settlers emigration scheme, which offered free land in Upper Canada to impoverished Scots.
Farther up the socio-economic scale, my father’s English ancestors were younger sons who also sought their fortunes in Canada. The difference, though, was they had the means to return to England if they chose. One traversed the Atlantic by ship four times with his family and household goods, including a clock affectionately known as Henry.
The push and pull of migration means moving away from a known life, and moving toward one which is largely unknown. It means leaving behind friends and family, church and school communities, and the cultural codes, from choice of washing powder to public transport etiquette, which shape daily life.
It also means pulling up roots and replanting them.
The past fifteen years in England have largely been happy ones. They saw the birth of English Rose, and gave me new learning and professional opportunities. They’ve given me friends and experiences which have shaped who I’ve become. And they were the years I started to write seriously in pursuit of publication, and worked to develop my craft.
They’ve also had sad times, though, with the deaths of parents an ocean away, and other losses, personal and professional, which have rocked me to the core.
On Saturday, we’ll board a plane which will take us to a home English Rose has never known, and one which in some ways has become foreign to me. After much soul searching, our family is migrating again, to return to that rural Ontario my Irish ancestors settled so long ago.
Change is never easy, and I’m not the same person who left Canada in August 2000. In some ways, I suspect I’ll always be in a mid-Atlantic space straddling two cultures and communities.
As for English Rose, she’s stocked up on Marmite, Haribo sweets and Jaffa Cakes. She’s also immersed in a language app in preparation for daily French lessons at her new school.
Like my ancestors who left the “old country” many lifetimes ago, England will always be part of me. However, unlike most of those ancestors, I’ll be back, although Henry the clock, still part of our family, will stay in Canada.
By a quirk of fate, we’re flying to Toronto via Dublin. I think my Irish ancestors would be pleased.
Do you have any tips to help us navigate this big life change?