|6 Hartwell Rd|
I have been thinking a lot about Home lately. Home and what it means to have one. It's not just watching the news about the Syrian refugees that has triggered this. It's personal too. My mom died suddenly back in August. She was 80. She had been fairly healthy and then she had a stroke and that was the end. I think she would have chosen to go like that. Quick and painless. My Dad died nearly 25 years ago. So within weeks of her death, her house, our family home since 1964, was cleared out, put on the market and sold-- a lifetime of memories gone. Just like that. If you are prone to pondering like me, this sort of thing makes you question everything.
I have been traveling all over the world for years, using teaching as a means to do so. I will share some truths I have learned on my travels in this blog eventually. Throughout all my travels, I have never stopped thinking about that house at 6 Hartwell as my home. Even though I haven't lived there in decades and despite the fact that it wasn't the happiest of homes, it was still the place that made me who I am today. Knowing where I am from and what made me who I am, has made the rootlessness of my nomadic life easier to bear. So what happens now that my home of homes doesn't exist anymore?
And what of my daughter? She is nearly 9. She has already lived in 6 countries and spent considerable time in many more. How will she define home? What can she say when she is asked the question, 'So where are you from?' Since her father is Irish and I am American she usually says she is from Ireland and America-- yet she has hardly lived in either country. And so to the bigger question--Does it matter? People often tell me that my daughter's home is with me. But what if that isn't quite enough? In my daughter's experience, you can fly to almost anywhere in the world, get off the plane and find someone you know there. She is truly a third culture kid. Seems Cool. But I can't shake the feeling that one needs to have a sense of Place to have a sense of Self. Where are you from? I am inclined to think that knowing the answer to that question matters a lot. I am sure there is some truth to those sayings that home is where the heart is but I am beginning to think that whoever coined that term never felt truly without a home.
My mother's birthday was a few days ago. We had not celebrated any birthdays together, hers or mine, in some years. We had been estranged. But this one, well, I missed her. I felt the loss in my solar plexus. She was a teacher. She always told me I should write so, in honor of what would have been her 81st birthday, I am finally writing my first post. Should anyone who knows me read this, they might scoff and say--but you ran away! You went off to explore! You hadn't seen your mother in years! Those people would be correct. But they don't know everything. They don't know why and they don't know the cost. I could never find a way to explain how I missed home every single day and in every single place I have lived. In my search to find words for this, I came across this word: hiraeth.
Maybe my feelings of hiraeth have more to do with turning 45 and finding myself in my 9th international teaching job posting and finding I can fit all my worldly possessions in a few suitcases as well. Some say, ah you are really living free. No possessions to tie you down. And yes that is true. But what I imagine most feel as those mid-life doubts begin to crop up, is that they haven't done and seen enough of what they once dreamed when they were young. For most, the idea of randomly moving to a new country every year is so daunting they would never dream of trying it. It is commonplace for me. And now, as I reach the supposed pinnacle of life, I find the thing that has been just out of reach for me is that-- settling down. The word settle always had a negative connotation to me. You're settling for what life has handed out and making it work. Now I see that as the ultimate challenge and achievement. I am ready now to make my own home, for myself and my daughter. But before I do, I want to take time to reflect on all the adventures that have got us to this point. I have a lot of ground to cover. Watch this space.
|My mom and I in 1972|