So asked someone of me recently, and I was honestly confused, for a moment or two. I live here. I am here. My little immediate family unit is here. For me, that’s home. Isn’t it?
For lots of people, when they’re somewhere that isn’t where they were born, they simply aren’t home.
For me, when I left home, I’d left. Home. My old home – the one where my parents lived. Now it was their home, not mine. I went off to make a new home. My home.
Yes, home changed often. In my early twenties I moved home more often than I can remember. But home it was – wherever I laid my hat. I didn’t ‘go home’ when I visited my parents, I went to visit my parents…
And when I moved from my UK home, at that time a flat I owned for a couple of years in London, to move to New Zealand, New Zealand became my home.
Am I ranting on? I just find this ‘going home’ thing confusing. home is where I am. Where I make it. Where I choose it. Where I sit to relax. Where I invite my friends to share a meal. Where I write, create, live. How can it be otherwise?
I call England my home country. But it’s not my home. New Zealand is my ‘second home country’. But it’s not my home, either. Home is here, where I’m making life. Now… I think.
When my parents retired they moved from the house I lived in through my teens, and from the town. They found a pleasanter place to be, quite some distance away, and chose to make their home there. So not only is it very much their home, it has never been mine. And yet people assume that when I visit them, I’m going ‘home’. “Oh it must be nice to go home again,” they say. And I feel I must reply “Oh no, that’s not my home. My home is here. That’s my parent’s house. And also, I never lived there, that’s my parent’s home…”
It seems funny – this assumption that my parents, too, would remain attached to a house in a town or village somewhere, and remain there forever…because it’s ‘home’. In fact my dad is from Essex and mum was born in Bournemouth, but her spiritual home is definitely Swaledale, for various reasons. I love it there, too – my Granny moved back up there from Exmouth during my childhood, and we spent many free, happy holidays there. But I’ve never heard my parents refer to ‘home’ as anywhere other than where they are living now, either.
My most recent trip to Essex a few years ago sealed parts of that largely unexplored county in my heart too. Although it was a short trip, discovering some wild coastline, and the little chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall made me realise there’s lots more to Essex than my childhood visits to my Grandparents revealed. More that my ancestors (who we think were ‘gentlemen smugglers of Foulness Island’) knew. I’ve never lived in Swaledale or Essex. They aren’t ‘home’ – but they are part of my history, as is that house in that town that my parents chose not to stay in. Just a part of my history, not home.
A homely chord
New Zealand felt like home when I visited in 1999. It struck a chord, I suppose. I felt it had claimed my bones, and I willingly let it. So New Zealand became my home in 2002 and for ten years after that. But if you drilled me, I can’t tell you it’s home now. I don’t have a house there, I can’t imagine living there right now – except in a dream where I have a very different life. Oh trust me, it still has my bones, and my heart – but so does today. Here. Now. So where does that make home for me?
My youngest has a strong sense of home. Although on one hand it’s where I am, where our family are, it’s also where her dearest friend in the whole wide world is, where her school career started, where her earliest firm memories were formed.
“Why can’t we just go home?” She sorrowfully asks me once in a while.
“Our home is here right now sweetie,” I say.
“Mine isn’t,” she insists.
God, children are good at making you feel guilty!
Films of home
We’ve been enjoying some mountain films lately – the Mr is obsessed by them. I did ask for a pause on all the ones about avalanches, given they weren’t educational and were just contributing to my fear of the snow (don’t worry, I am educating myself about avalanches too). But some of these films are just lovely to watch. Do take a look at this onecalled This Is Home from the Faction collective (Mr and I both have a set of Faction skis in our collection). In it someone says that home is somewhere you know all the secret places. I lamented aloud that I have nowhere like that – but the Mr reminded me of the secret places I know in New Zealand. And I guess I have some in England too – great places for coffee, nooks of Bristol with interesting shops, off-the-beaten-track running routes and the odd wild camp site. If I don’t feel I know enough secret places, perhaps that’s a flag telling me to ‘explore more’.
Perhaps exploring is actually the key to finding your home, after all. Perhaps it’s having time to do that, so you find that you’re in love with where you happen to be. Perhaps home doesn’t have to be one place and I should stop being bothered that for some people it is. I should just enjoy exploring places and people and making my home here, now.
Or perhaps I am on the way there, and I won’t know until suddenly, one day, I realise I am truly home.