I am a second generation immigrant, the daughter of an Australian mother and an English father, born and raised in the UK. My parents met in Australia whilst my father was a student there in the 1960's. When the time came for him to leave in 1968, he decided, along with 2 friends, to sail back to the UK in a wooden ketch. As far as I can tell none of them could actually sail, the boat was decrepit and the navigation system consisted of a sextant and the stars. My mother took a two week holiday to go to Sydney to wave good bye to him, but at the last moment decided to board the boat too. The crew got as far as Singapore before the boat became unseaworthy. My parents left the rest of the crew and hitchhiked their way back to Europe and the UK, where they finally settled. Their (mis)adventures have become part of our family history and belong elsewhere.
It is the legacy of my mother's sudden exit from the country of her birth that I want to share. I was born in 1969 not long after their return and had a fairly uneventful childhood in rural Norfolk; one in which my young 'hippy' parents slowly adjusted and settled to a more conventional life. However I never had much of a sense of belonging to the culture or to the place I was being brought up in. We moved to Norwich in my early teens and people would ask where I was from and I found I couldn't answer the question, nor could I explain why I couldn't answer the question. This continued throughout my 20's as a student. Having been back to Australia a couple of times as a child I had a constant yearning to be down under, so after university I went off for a year to work it all out. Only I discovered that I didn't really fit there either. I had a very strong sense of place but I was very much a visitor, again my cultural references were all wrong.
Further study lured me back to the UK where it took until I was 35 to figure it out: throughout my formative years by mother talked of 'home' as being somewhere else, of where we were not. Apparently it is quite common for children of immigrants to feel the way I do but I have generally found people don't understand if I try to talk about it. I am 50 at the time of writing and the sense of not belonging has stayed with me but I don't let it define me. Having children has helped: roots have been put down for their sakes and I am confident they know where home is. Yet, ever so often feelings of displacement bubble to the surface and I feel a deep visceral response in my gut. I still don't have an answer to the question 'Where are you from?'