09 July 2010

Home: Concept, Place or People?

When someone says the word home, what immediately comes to your mind?

Is it a front porch somewhere in your childhood or a smell of cooking from the kitchen? Is it a certain room or scene or sound? Is it a voice, a hug, a person?

I remember planting a Christmas tree in front of our house at 1905 Euclid Dr that grew to dwarf the house. I remember getting my head stuck in the railing of the house at 1524 Euclid as I waited and watched for my favourite milk man to bring me chocolate milk. Bob did eventually come and rescued me by pushing my ears flat and gently easing my head out. The chocolate milk followed and the tears stopped.

I remember planting another tree at another house over my dog's burial place. The blue spruce still stands and I think of my old pet whenever I drive past. I won't name the dog now as her name has taken on different meaning as slang has evolved.

I remember going in to Granny's house and shouting to locate her. She might be in the back bedroom ironing or in the basement doing crafts.

At my other grandmother's I would join her in the kitchen and admire the extra touches she put on things, and how everything had a place and was usually in it!

I remember climbing up on Uncle Fred's lap to watch the football game, and falling asleep there.

I remember places where I felt at home, but I'd say most of that had to do with the people who filled those places with their presence and their love. I can list the addresses even now, and the phone numbers come to mind, such is the stability of some of the people I've known. That comes in handy since I've lived on three continents so far.

Just this week, friends packed their stuff in to a storage container and left their home for two years to work on projects in Nigeria. As they left their bedroom for the last time, the husband enveloped his wife in a hug and nearly wept. While they were going to Africa together as a family of five, their home, and that room especially, had become their safe grounding spot; a place to return to. They took home with them in the form of each others' familiar faces, but what they had created in that house was unique and comforting.

With an English mother and an Iranian father, journalist Christiane Amanpour has known the world as her home. By the time her family left Tehran, in straitened circumstances during the revolution, she was being convent educated in Britain. "I grew up all over the world," she says. "My experience as a nomad helped me a lot. I don't have a problem adjusting wherever I am. Because my first formative experience was one of upheaval, I understand refugees. It's given me a sense of empathy which is different from having an agenda."

In The Sacred Journey Frederick Buechner recalls: "Virtually every year of my life until I was fourteen, I lived in a different place, had different people to take care of me, went to a different school. The only house that remained constant was the one where my maternal grandparents lived in a suburb of Pittsburgh called East Liberty…Apart from that one house on Woodland Road, home was not a place to me when I was a child. It was people."

Sometimes we can develop homing habits that make a place familiar to us. If I am staying in a hotel room for more than one night, I'll often get fresh flowers to bring in life and colour. I travel with a candle in a tin and add that to the homey feel of the space. When I've pulled out my journal and Bible, I am surrounded by the history and the future I carry with me everywhere. These things ground me.

Some of you have moved extensively; some from continent to continent, as had Buechner. Some of you travel more than you'd like. How do you maintain your sense of home or recreate it in a new place? Is it about CNN, BBC or flavours and aromas? Is it about photos of loved ones or phone calls home? What is home to you?

1 comment:

Angela said...

you know topics likee this are close to the bone ;0) Love ya!