I See Stories

Home is where the hearth is
September 22, 2006, 7:06 am
Filed under: mirrors


I am reading Belonging: Home away from home by Isabel Huggan now. Throughout the book she visits the idea of home weaving bits of recollection about her childhood into the events of her daily life in France. From Canada, she lived in Africa, France, and the Philippines, making a new home in each place. She feels settled now in France.

I can’t help but feel slightly agitated and disconcerted by my readings. On the one hand, I have tried to write about this issue of home before myself; of what it means to be home. There is the idea of being at home, as in comfortable, familiar, at ease. I guess this feeling can come from living for an extended period in a place; frequency of traversing the terrain gives knowledge. A sure sign, is being able to daydream while walking to and from the market or the bank. When there is little danger of taking the wrong route or making a faux pas, less attention is required.

Then there is that more complicated notion of home as a place, a roost, a comfortable and safe haven. Can that travel with me? Can anyplace that I lay my head at night be considered home? Is it about having J and K with me? Does God’s company make anyplace my place? Is the absence of tension and anxiety, a freedom from worry, the emotion of home?

I used to believe that my parents’ home place would be my home forever. That the huge and perfect oak tree could belong to no one else until I had passed from this life; that it was important to always be able to go home to that spot.

Things changed. That place belongs to others now and while the oak tree still stands straight and tall (I hope), it is no longer mine (or my parents’) to go back to. Home seems more transportable to me now. It is somehow rolled up in a feeling of direction and purpose. I don’t necessarily have to have the answers, but to have a feel for what I am seeking, has become a comfort.

I don’t know anymore. My pilgrim status seems to be returning. It is not realized in actual movement at the moment, but it feels like it is seeping back in mindset.

Yesterday I went to Kenzie’s school for Back to School Night. I’ve been to quite a few of these over the years (11 to be precise) and was surprised on the bus ride home to think that in 6 years, I have attended these at 4 different schools. More striking is that means that SHE has been to 4 schools in 6 years. For a person who thought that stability of setting—home—was one of the most important features a parent could offer a child, I sure have dragged my girl around a lot. Will it hurt her? Will she be scarred for life because she attended different schools in different countries speaking different languages?

Again, I don’t know. Sadly, when I recollect about those beliefs and realize that circumstances may necessitate yet another move before her schooling is complete. I see her pain of starting over with new friends in new places. What feels like stimulating adventure for me in my mid-forties seems like torture and punishment for the early teen.

When I was her age, it never occurred to me that life in other lands would be possible for an ordinary person like me. She sees that it is possible, but doesn’t always see it as desirable. Is opening up that window so that she can see something that I (and most people like us in America now) couldn’t imagine, a good thing? On a good day, I hope so.

“The seeking of some experience from the past to offer insight and enlightenment about the future by the journeying to a special place” could serve as the definition of a pilgrim. And where is home vis à vis the pilgrim? Can a pilgrim have a home as the start and finish of that journey, the pilgrimage?

Perhaps “home” exists only at the very end? Other places along the way can be places of respite, even refreshment. But a place with only relaxation? I haven’t found it yet.


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