The only theme I can think of for this morning’s offering is that of ‘home’, and what it means to me. This is probably because I was ‘at home’ this weekend, by which I mean in my parents’ house, for a second weekend running; that hasn’t happened for a few years. I used to be the kind of dutiful daughter who would come home to her parents every weekend, but the last few years have seen some monumental changes in my life (husband, moving further away, etc.) so I don’t get ‘home’ very often.
On Saturday morning, just before we set off for my parents’, I told my husband that something I had to do that day could wait until I got home, and he gave me a funny look. I knew what was causing his disconcerted expression – the fact that I was standing in the kitchen of our home, talking about another place as being ‘home’. He knew what I meant, but I could see that he had a point! It’s hard for me to separate myself from my childhood home, and I feel a huge psychological connection to my parents, their home and the town in which I was raised. Sometimes I wonder if this connection is too strong, and if other people have such a tough, sinewy tie to their childhood – sometimes I feel like it’s just me. I do tend to feel very sentimental when I’m either coming to or going from my ‘home’town, and my husband used to be accustomed to me wiping away silent tears for about fifteen minutes after we’d driven away from my parents’ door. After a certain distance, I was able to recover myself and all would be well – until the next time we visited my parents, at least, when the whole sorry cycle would begin again. It’s only recently that I’ve started to realise it is possible to leave my parents’ house without weeping, and I’ve been doing very well on that front for the last while. It also occurred to me that it might not have been the most pleasant experience for my husband, having to drag his weeping wife away from the bosom of her parents’ loving embrace, and all that other melodramatic stuff – not that he ever gave me any hint that it was tough for him, but it must have been. So, I’m glad that the ties are starting to soften, just a little.
It’s difficult to create a home somewhere else when you still feel that, emotionally, your ‘home’ is where you grew up. It took me a long time to feel like the home I share with my husband was really home; as well as my attachment to my childhood, I was also used to living in a succession of rented houses, and my brain took ages to switch from the ‘this is temporary, not really your home’ mentality to ‘this is your forever home, you can be happy here.’ Perhaps part of it is not quite believing how lucky I am to have not one, but two (and three, if I count my husband’s parents’ home) places in which I can be at home, and places where I know I can relax and take refuge. I’m very aware that most people are not so lucky, and this is particularly so in modern Ireland where families are struggling to keep their roofs over their heads. Not that my husband and I don’t have to worry about money, of course, but we’re not in the danger that some people are in – something for which I am profoundly grateful.
It’s also true that the concept of ‘home’ is one of the most powerful themes in literature – and it’s certainly a theme in my WiP. For a story to work and be satisfying to a reader, you need a character who has a home, whether it be a perfectly satisfactory and loving home or a dysfunctional one, and this home either needs to be lost or destroyed or left behind in some way in order for a quest to start. Most of the time in traditional storytelling a story ends when a character finds another ‘home’ – one they’ve created themselves – and this new home replaces the one they lost or left early in the plot. The idea of marriage as a symbol for peace and completion (as well as entry to adulthood, and hence the right and responsibility to create your own home) is also one which features in storytelling – who would have thought marriage would be symbolic of anything? But there you are – apparently, it is. (If you’re interested in this idea, you could do worse than have a look at Derek Brewer’s book, ‘Symbolic Stories’ – it does have a medieval/Renaissance focus, but it’s very interesting. Honest!)
So, ‘home’ is a vital concept to us humans, whether it’s on the micro-level of our own lives and experience, or the macro-level of our culture as a whole. It means different things to different people and different cultural groups, of course – to me, it might mean ‘a brick building with windows and a door, in a particular location’, and to a nomadic tribeswoman it might mean ‘a clean supply of water and a place to tether the livestock, in no particular location,’ but the same feelings surround it. It’s more than just a place, it’s a state of mind. Everyone needs a place to feel safe, but I’m aware, of course, that so many people are denied this basic right. So, I’m very grateful for my home, and I hope that today is a happy day in your home, wherever it is you may live.
Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day.