like many of the words on this list, this word seems innocuous at first, but then sneaks up and sucker-punches you in the stomach.
coz it seems to me that home is where your family is. or the place you grew up. where your parents live. home becomes a bit more loaded a term for people who don’t see their parents anymore, like me. (i had never before considered this, but i just realized i might not see the house in which i grew up, ever again. and my eyes filled and i’ve gotten so fucking sad about not seeing my room or my things or my old toys in the basement crawlspace or the planter that my grandfather made on the back deck and that’s ridiculous, i know it is. fuck.)
and home is safety, right? yeah, it’s where you live, but also, home is where the heart is. home sweet home. there’s no place like home. love makes a house a home. make yourself at home.
why do i feel like barfing?
one of my longtime friends from the city in which i grew up, when she’d come to visit, always commented on how we made all of our apartments so cozy, so welcoming. like a home. it always struck me as a funny thing to say but i think i know what she means now. we always had textiles and art on the wall. interesting things from our travels on display. plants spilling over shelves full of our books. photos in meaningful frames. we painted the walls to suit our taste, even when we rented. we grew flowers. dug gardens. made it our own.
even now, her house, in which she has lived for over nearly two decades, does not really reflect her. her zany sense of humour. the things she loves. it’s a space in which she lives, but i see more of her in her school classroom than in her actual home.
during a trip to see her good friend, pocketbrit described her house as being homely, and i thought, sheesh, that’s a bit harsh, but then it occurred to me to take a little boo at some online dictionaries. i was right to do so, coz in the UK, homely is the equivalent of homey; she meant her friend had made things warm and inviting and comfortable, whereas here, to call something or someone homely is fairly insulting and nearly means the opposite. i sent her screenshots of the two definitions and told her she’d best not tell my wife our place is homely when she comes, or she might end up sleeping in the shed. 🙂
in my 20s, i learned that i could make home wherever i went. that the feeling of home lived in me; that i could find it halfway across the world in the most unexpected places, at the most unexpected times. that home was a feeling as well as a physical place.
more recently i know that being loved, being seen, being known, is like coming home. i had to search to find this one quote, because it felt like it fit perfectly, but i only knew the gist of it from seeing it somewhere else. but this is what it is: “home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.” (pierce brown, in the second book of his trilogy) (which, full disclosure, i haven’t read.)
i used to make a point of calling pocketbrit’s flat home, referring to the place she grew up as your parents’ place. it was an intentional reframing of home that felt so important, somehow, and i never knew if she noticed my weird obsessive insistence on differentiating between the two. i did it because i wanted her to know that she could make home wherever she was, that she could build it, that she could be it.
a noble effort, but so silly. semantics. coz we both know that home is where you grew up. no matter how shitty, no matter who touched you in the night or how many times you were ignored or overseen, that was home. that’s what we think of. where our parents live, the place that was supposed to be safe but wasn’t.
so yeah, that’s why this word aches. because even the notion of home gets all twisted up and backwards in our bodies. and hearing it in other people’s mouths, or as a point of nostalgic reference, is yet another reminder of what we didn’t have, how different our experience was.
how much we still want the sense of being at home, of coming home, no matter how shit it was, or is still.