two hundred & twenty nine: sea/ocean

this is a huge one.

i mean, it’s the whole reason we’re here, with this blog. coz it’s where we meet, most every night; or when we’re feeling sad or scared; when we’re lonely and needing to feel close. the sea is where we go.

*

i had my first flashback in a very long while tonight. it was not expected and it was vivid and it was horrible. i was on my own with our daughter (who thankfully did not notice i was losing my shit, i was in the bath, trying to steam it all away) but i had pocketbrit with me on chat.

and, like so many times before, she stayed with me. didn’t leave. kept talking to me and the wee one. held us close, at the sea. hand in hand, she waded into to the cold water, alongside my small one who wanted to wet her feet. and then, when her little teeth chattered, pocketbrit dried her off, and got her in warm fuzzy jammies, and took her into her lap and swung with her on the porch, back and forth, back and forth, until she was asleep on her shoulder, face buried in her neck.

and then she brought her into the warm, and laid down next to her on the sofa, with the fire burning low, and went to sleep, too. after telling me a million times how proud she was, how much she loved me, and after crying her own tears for what we all had to endure.

i fell asleep with the both of them too, for a couple hours. i woke up in a dark room, with wet cheeks and a huge lump in my throat. i was dreaming, i don’t quite know what about, but it was a good sad, it was safe, there was love.

*

i truly don’t know what i’d do without our cottage at the sea. i had no idea a place in our minds could be so real, could help me feel so close to someone, so comforted, so loved.

i go there often: on my own, sometimes, but mostly to spend time with our young parts. sometimes we go to throw stones into the surf, to rage and scream. sometimes we go for long walks on the beach, small hands in larger ones, to scout for puppies we hope to steal away from their owners so to cuddle them in front of the fire. some afternoons we just go and set up puzzles on the table, or put a movie on for whoever wants to watch.

so much napping happens on the worn grey sofa at the sea. so much snuggling. and a lot of swinging on that old worn porch swing, where soft cushions and fuzzy shawls and blanket cocoons abound.

i swear it’s a real place, our place at the sea. it’s certainly real to me, and i think, to her. i can hear it, if i close my eyes. can smell the beeswax candles, the sprigs of lavender on the mantle, the wood crackling in the fireplace. i can see the gentle orange of the flames flickering on my eyelids, and can sense its warmth. and when we text each other, urging the other to tuck in, to stay close, i feel that too. and our code for i love you: two squeezes of our hands. all of it.

the sea has saved me. i don’t know how much more plainly i can say that. i don’t know what i’d do without it. and i don’t want to find out.

two hundred & twenty five: home

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.