In fact, my hometown is Perth. Hubby and I left Perth's sandy, white beaches over 15 years ago to move to Sydney for "a couple of years". Ahem.
Anyway, we are very settled here in Sydney. I will always be a "Perth Girl", but Sydney is now home. That doesn't mean I don't miss terribly my family in Perth - including, of course, my parents (now in their 80s) and my sister, niece, nephew, their extended families, my other family members and a few close friends I've kept in contact with from my old high school days. Hubby is the same. We miss them all very much, and getting home to see them is always a lot of fun.
However, it's also a very stressful thing for me.
The lead up is always busy. Lists are made of what we should take with us. We need to find a place to stay, a car to hire, book our flights. As you know, I don't like flying very much, and that adds even more to the stress. (It also doesn't help when you deal with very unhelpful Qantas staff when trying to finalise details - but that's a whole other post.)
In fact, planning a trip home back to Perth is equal parts pleasure and pain. There's the excitement of seeing everyone, mixed with the anxiety of getting it all together and traveling there.
But that's not even where the real stress begins.
As my parents have gotten older, whenever I see them these days, I really notice how much they have aged since the last time we saw each other. It's difficult. And I also feel a lot of guilt that I'm not there to help look after them. It's my gorgeous sister who does all that. She takes them food shopping, pays their bills, organises maintenance on their behalf... It's a lot of work for one person. They are very independent, but my sister still needs to help out a fair bit (which I know my parents appreciate very much).
Add to that the birth of my two great nephews in the last couple of years. My niece, nephew and I were so close growing up, and we talked about marriage and kids when we were kids ourselves. Now I hardly see them because of the distance, and I know the next time I see their babies, they'll be so big and I will be an almost virtual stranger to them. I hate that.
When I catch up with my girlfriends from high school, it's like no time has passed, and when they talk about their semi-regular get-togethers for lunch, I realise how much I'm missing out on by not being able to join them. Thank God for my friends like Jen and Mardi here in Sydney. Without them, I'd feel lost.
I have often wondered if living here in Sydney is partly like living in denial of what's going on back in Perth? What I don't see won't hurt me, you know? Seeing everyone in Perth is both great and upsetting for me. And when I return to my nice life here in Sydney, I'm away from that - living in my own little world.
I spend about a week before flying to Perth stressing over the trip: the flight, when I will catch up with everyone, how the kids will be etc. Then the last few days before we fly home I stress over saying goodbye (which is incredibly difficult), the flight (again) and what I have to catch up with on my return.
Going back to Perth isn't easy. It's tough, in fact. But not only do I have to do it, I want to. Not seeing everyone is worse, no matter how hard it is sometimes to see them and to also say goodbye.
That's just the way it is, I guess.