Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Home. Is it a house, suburb, city or country? Or is it a state of mind? Such thoughts have occurred to me many times during and since we returned from travelling as a family of five for five weeks.
For someone for whom the physical home is so important, I expected to miss my bed, my kitchen, my bath quite a bit. I hardly thought about them the whole time we were away.
Of course, there was the superficial fun of trying on different homes for size: the Wind and the Willows fantasy of living on the Thames riverbank; the canal house apartment in Amsterdam; the 17th century Cotswold cottage; and the Mansion flat in Knightsbridge, just around the corner from Harrods. All of them so very different, yet all of them feeling as much like home as the other.
Why? Because maybe I’m starting to realise that home now, for me, is the little family that Stuart and I have created. This tiny, insignificant group of five people in an overwhelmingly large universe is all I need. It wouldn’t matter where we were – even in row 60, 15 hours into a 24 hour flight – I still truly feel home with them.
This was such a different experience from the times of travelling alone when those interminable long-haul flights felt like limbo-land; life on hold waiting to reach someone else on the other side to take me home.
Homesickness also felt different. I missed people rather than places. You only need time away to realise how often you want to speak to close friends; to discover how closely they are stitched into the fabric of your daily life.
And family. There were times when I felt acutely homesick for the past. Watching my children’s eyes widen as they walked the streets of London for the first time reminded me of my sister and I many years ago. To go back there, to a time when my father was alive; when home was simply him, my mother, sister and I walking these same streets.
While staying with my uncle I found myself able to close my eyes and hear my father’s voice through my uncle as he talked about their childhoods and told stories about my grandparents. His mannerisms brought my father back to life for brief moments and for brief moments that feeling of homesickness was almost unbearable.
It wasn’t until we attended a wedding at the end of our trip that I fully understood how much my feelings about what represents home have changed.
It was a simple reading about love yet it resonated so deeply that I pocketed the order of service and carried it all the way home. Or was home actually travelling along with me all that time?
'Love is a temporary madness;
it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement,
it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being in love, which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree and not two.'
An extract from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres