Reflections on Home

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HOME– What is it? Where is it?

Today, I am sitting at “home” having just returned from a visit to my “homeland” where I spent 4 weeks from mid December 2017 to mid-January 2018.

I spent most of that time at my sister’s house – it was a great time which was long overdue. My sister, who is 9 years younger than I am, was only 9 when I went off to University. After graduation I left home on a post-graduate scholarship in Europe, she remained at home. So, we grew up separately – yet remained connected by a bond of love and the common foundation of family.

This visit “home” was special – my sister and I shared so many little inconsequential things, which meant a lot to us – we sat and talked, and laughed … and laughed again. We looked at life’s idiosyncrasies – and laughed some more. We felt comfortable with each other – we were at home. The age difference did not seem as big as it had been oh so many many years ago, when we were growing up.

Our younger brother would join us from time to time – and we enjoyed each other’s company and stories, as if we were children. On one very pleasant evening, after a lot of sibling banter, he turned to me and said – “You must come home more often!”, and then he asked a question….“Where do your children call home?”

This was a significant question because I have lived in 5 different countries and can refer to two different places as a homeland – (the land of my birth, and the land of my adoption). My children have been born in these “homelands” and now live in the United States and in Canada. In many ways their “homelands” are different from each other, and from mine. My response to my brother’s question required thought and I replied – “Home, for them, is wherever I am!”

That got me thinking……

Where is home exactly? Is it a place? A Person? Or a Feeling?

We live in global communities, the place of our birth may not be the place of our residence, the place of our retirement or final exit. The important question – “Where is home?” – therefore becomes one that we must carefully consider, because in this day and age, we move around a great deal. We change jobs, we go somewhere else to study, we change countries, we change cities and we change houses (and often spouses) – we live all over the map in very diverse and fluid communities. So, the idea of home becomes a significant concept to understand, and indeed – reflect upon.

When I was younger, and my parents were alive, “home” always meant the “family home” where my parents lived. My roots were there, my traditions were there – I was comfortable in that setting – I understood the norms, values and acceptable behaviours. I knew the tastes, smells and fragrance of the kitchen, and my heart was at ease. Home represented the learned patterns and childhood memories that are filled with love and joy. So should I answer the question about home by saying that home is a sense of all of those “familiarities?”

My parents are no longer with us, the family house is sold, but when I get together with siblings, cousins and extended family members, in the land of my birth – we still are “at home”. The sense of “coming home” continues to be with me when the airplane touches down on the tropical shores of my ancestral lands. I know that I belong, I recognize the tastes and odours. I understand the language, accents, dialects and nuances. Here, in this land – I blend in both culturally and physically. So I must wonder if this core understanding also indicates that home is a “place”.

However, when I leave the warmth of the sun and the salt of the sea. When the airplane touches down on an icy tarmac surrounded by snowdrifts and icy winds, I also feel that I am “coming home”. I try to re-create tastes and flavours that are reminiscent of my mother’s kitchen. I understand the language, accents, dialects and nuances. Here, in this place, I am integrated both culturally and physically. I have come back home, to a place of choice, within which I find the warmth and glow of children, spouse, family and friends. So home can not be a place, nor can it be people. I feel at home in different countries, with different people in different environments. So the question still remains … what is home, and where is it?

There is an old saying that “home is where the heart is”. To me, home both includes – and goes beyond the heart. Home for me is therefore a feeling. It is a feeling that we all will get when we know that we are loved and treasured. When we find acceptance of who we are – not what we do, when we experience an unconditional sense of belonging and respect. We may get that feeling in one place or in different places. We may get that feeling with one or more persons. Home can be in ancestral environments full of the sounds, smells and tastes that trigger childhood memories and connections. Home can also be in new surroundings full of different sounds, smells and tastes. It can be built upon new memories and recent connections. Home is therefore an elusive concept which may be rooted in many places and with many people.

As we journey through life, we grow, evolve and change – the home that we leave behind will not be the same when we return, and can never be recreated the way it was. We can visit, we can understand but we can not duplicate the home of our childhood. Although our “home” will have changed (for the better or worse) we will continue to carry with us the memory of what that home meant to us. It will reside within us in memory, traditions, and reflections; and will become a touchstone of security as we continue our life’s journey.

But, as we move along our pathways of life, we carry with us an obligation, … to help our children create a place that they too can call home. A space within which they will feel loved, cared for, honoured and respected. A place, where we create new and different memories, traditions, and reflections; and find other touchstones and sources of joy to carry us onward through life’s journey.

So as we reflect on this, the question is, “Where is my home – and how do I know?”

G’Ma Trica

Pat Wright, B.Sc., M.Ed. is an educator, community activist and diversity trainer with a keen interest in people, places and things. Pat has been the Toastmasters Area Governor and was recognized in the first "Who’s Who in Black Canada – 2002 edition”.

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