The Parents’ Visit – the familiar vs the foreign

In mid-September my parents’ long awaited trip to Europe finally swung around. After an organised bus trip through Germany and Austria they wound up on our doorstep to stay for two weeks.

Parents visit restaurant food

And it was weird. Because I thought it would be weird to have them in our house, traipsing around. But it wasn’t. In fact it felt weirdly normal for me. I took some days off work and aside from some minor sightseeing (they’d done most of it on their last trip), we mostly just did a random selection of other things – hanging out the washing, walking to the local bakery for coffee, going shopping, visiting friends and family, sitting on the terrace with a cup of tea, playing scrabble in the evenings…

It was like time had slid backwards – I was living with my parents again in a house: Dad took out the compost in the evenings, and mum insisted on hand washing the mugs. They automatically did things the way I did – and it was so comforting and so crazily normal. For two weeks I had two extra people on my side – yes the salt is in the wrong shaker, yes it’s weird that we have to close doors all the time. My poor hubby got ganged up on by the Australians and their weird normal ways of doing things.

But I also noticed that occasionally my parents did strange things. And I found myself irritated. Why do they always fill up the kettle for only two cups of tea, for example? And then I realised – I’d left behind some of my childhood – I’d adapted and created my own ways of doing things, along with my weird special Austrian husband.

It wasn’t an overly eventful time – to quote my mum: “We came to Austria to visit our daughter, not go sightseeing.” But we did manage to tick off a few items – a boat cruise on Lake Wörtersee, a visit to the Griffin Castle… and lots of eating. Lots and lots of eating. My dad had to try all the cakes again, they had to figure out the name of their favourite coffee, and my mum dutifully translated menus borne from her German learning back in Oz.

I’d booked them three nights in a mountain hut nearby – something they were looking forward to – long walks in the sunshine, fresh mountain air! Oh it was fresh all right! Austria, it seems, has a sense of humour. After vowing never to come to Austria in the summer again (when my parents came for the wedding we were in the middle of some random, ridiculously hot weather), they’d opted for September… thinking it would be milder. Well, they almost got snowed into that mountain hut! The temperatures plummeted and they instead got a taste of Austrian winter!

Parents visit restaurant foodBut they didn’t mind too much. And most of the time while they were here we were just… together. The days were lazy… the nights early… the bellies full.

And although I probably did revert a couple of times back into my 16-year-old intolerant self, I just did my best to enjoy the moments – all of them. And when they left I thought, I’m all right. I’m seeing them again in 2 months. I will not have a meltdown this time.

I lasted 4 days – had the meltdown and moved on. Because it’s ok. It’s ok to be sad when the familiar leaves and you’re left floating once more, a little out of reach in the foreign-but-oh-so-well-known Austrian waters. And I’m not far from a rescue buoy, a small island, something to grip onto and enjoy as we enter the cold Austrian winter. And don’t forget. Less than 2 months till Oz!

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