Annabelle Smith, Feature Editor

I am 13 years old, it is 4 PM and the fireworks are going off: tinny, crackling booms emanate from the computer screen as my mother and I FaceTime home to England on New Year’s Eve. We laugh and scream along with the pixelated relatives on screen until the fireworks are over, and then the call ends–and my mother makes a sound like she’s on the verge of tears.


I don’t know what to do, just a kid on that strange barrier between childhood and maturity. I hug her and ask, “Mommy, what’s wrong?”


“I miss them,” she says tearfully, her eyes blotchy. “I always think, there is another year away from home.”


I bite back the confused, angry voice in my head, thinking isn’t this your home?


In fact, my mother’s first home was in North Yorkshire, England:  a land of bottomless cups of tea, rural farms, country smells, xenophobia, and all her family besides her husband and children. Growing up, her hometown was so small and close-knit that news of what happened during her school day sometimes reached her parents before she’d returned home. On a summer visit, I once managed to run from one end of town to the other in seven minutes, down cobbled streets seeming straight out of the Elizabethan era.


Here, England, is to me a place of the past–a little stake I have in a far off continent, a haven of half my heritage, a backdrop of my childhood summertimes spend bolstering my British accent and my connections with family.


But to my mother, this country means more. Far from a place of the past, it is vibrant and alive, calling her name across thousands of miles every Christmas, anniversary, and birthday. She left this place when she was just 16, heading off to dance college and then onto a career dancing on cruise ships. She tells me how dancing was her “ticket out of there,” her way to see the world. But she brings me back here in the summertime, to smell the country smells and be surrounded by unconditional love, in the hopes that I will know my history.


To this day, she tells me “families just aren’t meant to be apart”; she could have moved to England, and instead moved with my dad to start a new life in Seattle.  Here, I have opportunities she never experienced, like hiking in the Cascades, interning for a research company, meeting and connecting with diverse people, and knowing I have many, many paths to choose from rather than just one “ticket.” In all of this, I must remember: she did this for me. She is the reason behind all I have accomplished–I owe her everything.


Back on that New Years Eve, though, I am too immature and self-centered to see this. I cannot understand that it was her journey, and her years spent apart from her roots, that let me grow here: she cashed in her ticket for the future of a family that didn’t exist yet, ripping herself away from her family.


Today, I have grown. Today, I ask my mother to talk about her home more, to tell her childhood stories so I may learn from them. I understand my mother’s sacrifice, and why she pushed me to talk to my aunts and grandparents on the phone all through my childhood.  And I understand that no matter where I may go in life, I will always remember my home.