Wednesday, July 7, 2010
When home is... a sense
The last few days I have overheard or been a part of conversations where ‘home’ is mentioned. It’s funny how when you’re focused on a subject you suddenly start hearing or seeing it everywhere. A bit like when you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant and the world seems full of pregnant bellies, babies and prams in a way it never was before. Anyway, what has been interesting about these conversations is that people haven’t been referring to ‘home’ as a physical place but rather as a feeling, a sense, or a moment.
In the Sydney Morning Herald this morning I was reading about the new movie about to be released, The Waiting City. It’s an Australian movie, written, directed and produced by Claire McCarthy but shot entirely in India. When asked how she felt about taking on such a big project relatively early in her career, Claire answered ‘I felt very safe in a way – I just feel so at home in Calcutta’.
Last week my friend’s four-year-old daughter had been up all night with an awful cough. In between coughing and tears she told my friend, her mother, ‘I just want to go home. Take me home.’
‘But you are home’, my friend answered before fully understanding what she was really saying.
The week before I overheard someone describing falling in love, ‘I knew it, as soon as I put my head on his chest. It felt like... well, just like home’.
It’s interesting to think of home as a euphemism for safety and security. It’s one thing for the physical space of home to be a refuge, a way of cocooning or hibernating from the outside world but it’s another to feel that ‘home’ is a state of mind.
When has home represented a state of mind for you? For me it would be every time I have smelt my nanna’s perfume in the 20 years after her death. Walking past someone wearing that perfume is the quickest way to send me back into her arms or to hear her chuckle. It reminds me of feeling safe with her as a child. My sister admitted recently that when she is feeling down she sometimes takes the lid off the old compact container that used to hold nanna’s face powder and smells it to feel better.
Whenever I’m overseas and I smell someone wearing my mother’s perfume I feel the same way. When I was in my early 20s I was in London staying with family friends and became ill with a virus.
‘You just want your mum when you feel sick’, said this family friend reading my thoughts of complete homesickness at this moment. ‘I still want my mum when I’m sick’, she continued; this woman who was aged in her mid-50s with a husband and adult children and had lost her mum 35 years before. But was it our mothers we wanted or the feelings of complete safety and protectiveness they give us throughout our lives?
We took our three children to America last year and over the three weeks we were away, my four-year-old took to muttering to himself quite a bit when something went wrong. ‘I knew I shouldn’t have come to America’, he would say if he fell over or the ravioli he ordered was round rather than square, ‘I just want to be home. NOW!’
It wasn’t the physical space he craved, it was the reassurance that all was right in a world he understood.
When my father died I had a four-week-old baby. Home for me then was most definitely that baby in my arms – as often as possible. The feelings of loss in a world I couldn’t imagine and didn’t understand were only countered by my arms being full of that new life.
What is it about the word ‘home’ that is so emotive? And isn’t it endlessly fascinating that at different times in our lives or even on different days of the week that little, seemingly harmless four-letter-word can conjure such disparate feelings.