Over the past couple of months, I’ve spent some time writing about home, about what it means to me, and how to deepen my sense of home and my connection to it. I’ve done a lot of starting and stopping, a lot of staring at the page, and a lot if ripping sheets from my notebook and scrunching them into a ball for the trash can. It seems I possess a great curiosity about the meaning of home, but also a lot of fear and confusion about the process and what it may uncover for me.
Granted, August may not have been the best time to start such a project, given that I’d just returned to Thailand with my family, after our annual family visit to the US. While I always appreciate and look forward to the opportunity to reconnect with my home culture, it was a tough summer, traveling with our one-year-old and three-year-old, and staying in other people’s homes for almost two months.
While our hosts generously went above and beyond to accommodate us and help, everyone knows this sort of arrangement is meant to be temporary, no more than a handful of days (you’ve heard the line about fish and guests). The experience challenged the assumptions R and I had about home, our home of origin, and our relationship to it, and we realized it’s important in the coming months and years, if we remain abroad, to decide what will work best for our family in the future. Will we continue to make extended visits to the US each summer? If so, where and for how long?
I had totally different plans for this post, but here’s the thing I realized in writing it: in thinking about home, you have to start with the basics. Before you can look at home as a place to which you belong, or long to belong, before you can consider home through the lens of nostalgia, before you can ponder any of the emotional aspects in considering “home,” you must start with the physical, with the place where you live, be it house, apartment, condo or yurt.
Where do you cook your meals? Where do you sleep at night? Where do you keep your cell phone and your keys? Where do the kids play when it’s raining and you can’t go outside after dinner? Where does your son keep his favorite books and where does he hide his Matchbox cars? Do you store the can opener in this drawer or that one? What about the cereal and the salt and pepper? Where do you soothe a cranky kid and read bedtime stories and where do you check in with your husband, at the end of a busy day?
From the physical aspects of home, of knowing there’s a roof over your head and a space just for you, where you can be yourself and hide from the world if need be, where you can cry or laugh or dance if you want, comes a sense of comfort and belonging. Without that foundation, creating a sense of home may be possible in the short term, but to sustain it, ultimately, we must have our own place in the world, in which to witness the beginnings and endings and the small moments of our days.
Share your thoughts on home. Do you need a space to call your own or can you create a sense of home wherever you are?