Basel is a lovely city for so many reasons, but one aspect of living here that is truly hard to embrace, is how often our friends come and go. It is a revolving door of people who find their way in and once again out of our lives – the very friends that become like family because our own families are so very far away.
The first time one of my dearest friends told me she was moving back to America, I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach. What would I do without my “Go to Girl?” The very friend that taught me so much about my new city, invited me over for dinners, took me on gorgeous hikes and watched my cats while we were away? How would I say good-bye to one of the few people who made me feel safe in my new home knowing that if I ever needed anything, she would be there in a flash to offer a helping hand? That was a good – bye that still stings.
What makes this transient lifestyle all the harder is explaining to our four–year-old son that his best friends have to move. “Why do Thomas and Daniel have to leave?” he asks with sad eyes and a heavy heart. We do our best to explain that often time’s families have to move due to work, but that concept is quite complex for a four–year–old to understand. Children cannot comprehend that paychecks often dictate our location in this world. Children only seem to recognize that their best friends are no longer there to play, to sing “Happy Birthday” as they celebrate another passing year and ramble around local playgrounds. With the a blink of an eye and the arrival of a moving van, possessions and families can be carted away only to start a new life, in a new city all so distant from them. As a parent it is heart wrenching to observe. In a normal situation we might have to occasionally explain the departure of friends, but the rate at which our friends leave Basel is often times mind-blowing.
Since the departure of my “Go to Girl,” many of our friends have come and gone from our lives. As one door closes, however, it seems as though a new door opens and a new friendship begins to blossom. It is with a guarded heart that we greet strangers now, knowing that work contracts come and go and when they do, we are often left with the emptiness of friendships that once filled our days and warmed our hearts. Hearing the words, “We are here on a local contract “is music to our ears and even better is when we hear, “Oh, I am married to a Swiss.” Whew…hopefully this one will stay awhile we mutter silently with cautious optimism.
One of the reasons we elected to enroll our son in the local school was due to all the good-byes we have had to say, and the pain that comes from wiping away one too many tears. Wanting desperately for our son to make friends with children in the neighborhood – children who have roots in the area and permanently refer to Basel as home. Something about seeing friends in our local grocery store, and at playgrounds makes us cozy up and settle in to our new home all the more. It makes us more inclined to embrace these new acquaintances, with the hope of building relationships, if not for ourselves, but for our children that are intended to carry us through the long haul.
We are grateful for the friendships we have made, however short those friends have blessed us with their presence, but we are also anxious to embrace the long timers. We want to build the kind of solid friendships that see you at your worst and help you rise to your best. The kind of friends that see your home in total disarray and never judge, the sort of people who lend a helping hand when your partner must travel for work and the kind of friends that will be there in a second should you need anything. We want the type of friends that stay, so these weary hearts can mend a bit and we can continue to share this experience with those who truly embrace and understand our new-found way of expat life.