– Frederick Buechner
We made it. We are now settled in, mostly unpacked, and enjoying the quiet of our new town. Our WiFi was installed yesterday, we had friends over for dinner on Sunday and Jo is now tapping away at their latest batch of editing work, quickly slipping back into their pre-moving routine. We made Duder’s switch off yesterday, sending him for his two-week summer vacation with his dad, which is the first time he and I have been apart for longer than a few days, in all of his 8 years, and I think Jo and I are both silently trying to ignore the fact that he’s gone.
Moving has been a rollercoaster of emotions for me, personally. I didn’t move a lot as a kid, only when it was reasonable and still exciting. I had a “home base” my entire life; regardless of the building itself changing, there wasn’t a house that we didn’t live in for less than 5 years. By the time it was time to move, we were usually ready to start anew.
This move hasn’t been much different in that regard. Our home in Niagara was beautiful; I, arguably, was slightly more fond of it than both Jo and Duder, but it didn’t make sense to stay there. Not only did Duder have a really hard time being alone in a top-floor bedroom at night, we had two floors (upper and basement) that were only accessible by a flight of at least 8 stairs, which I can’t maneuver and it was, unfortunately, super expensive. Above all else, it wasn’t ours, so at some point we all knew we would have to leave.
This is, of course, leaving out the fact that we didn’t have a community, we were inundated with a lot of negative people and had only just managed to start finding people to connect with after we had decided the Niagara region wasn’t interested in having us.
The concept of “home” is an interesting one for me. Up until the house we just left, I hadn’t ever felt like anywhere I had lived was my home. I had a number of different houses I spent time at, but home wasn’t a feeling I recognized; whether that was due to my own emotional and mental wellness issues, or whatever other reason it may have been. I knew that the house I lived in was safe, but home was only used in reference to a place I was going, not to the feeling that comes with “being home”. I think I spent the majority of my life trying to make a home out of a person, without realizing that people were, obviously, more nomadic than the idea of home that I was looking for.
Jo has figured out how to make any space comfortable, having moved over 20 times, and has been integral in making each of our new spaces feel like a home. Our new house already feels more like home to me than anywhere I’ve been, and we’ve lived here for a total of 3 days so far. That being said, Annika Martins makes a great point in her article about home being a place in yourself, when she writes:
“Geography is irrelevant. Your address means next to nothing. What matters is how open your heart is.”
In the article, Annika talks about how she was forever searching for her home; the place where she felt safe, powerful and rooted. She explains how she fixated and obsessed over seeing images of exactly where she was supposed to be; where her home was. She describes feeling “anxious about postal codes” and being in a constant struggle with herself and the universe about where she was meant to be, until she eventually realized that as long as she was open to love and open with love, she was home. This might sound cheesy to some, but the idea of being home, no matter where you are, as long as you are open and accepting to the opportunities and possibilities there, is one that I’m slowly coming around to, perhaps in a less froufrou way.
We drove Duder a bit farther than the half-way point to meet his dad yesterday. I had to go to the hospital for a scheduled MRI anyway, and we had quite a bit of time to kill between the planned 2:00pm switch-off and my 3:45 appointment. As soon as the scenery became familiar to what I remember from my time growing up in the Hamilton and Niagara regions, the air got thick and humid, and my stomach started jumping in loops. Coming back to that area literally triggered something in me, even though we were only there briefly; and I wondered why I never felt at peace, or at home there, no matter where I went. By the time we had turned around and were making our way back to our new home and the cityscape I remembered faded away, all of my panic and anxiety did, too.
This has all been jostling around in my brain since we bought our house, though there have been events and little things that have popped up that have exacerbated the feeling slowly, over time. My biological grandmother sent me an e-mail last week, with a photo from “happier times” with her, my mother, sister and I, wishing me all the best and essentially putting me on notice that they, too, were decidedly finished with their relationship with me. I expressed to Jo later that day that it feels strange to me that we are not even so much as a blip on people’s radar for them to be happy to see us go. But having to return to my “home”town and experiencing a physical reaction to even being in the area, being triggered by the names of streets and highway exits, having flashbacks to not-so-pleasant memories of my time in these places; in the end, I’m happy to see us leave, every time, and that’s becoming all that matters.
I’m realizing that home is not a person, building or city. I have been lucky enough to have moments of home throughout my life; the smell of my grandmother’s cooking was home. The amount of love and connection I felt with friends, lovers, however short lived, was home. Making Duder laugh, every time, is home. Looking up from this screen and seeing Jo tapping away, either at their work or their latest game focus, is home. The places that trigger me now, do so because I experienced trauma, hurt and other terrible feelings there, but not because they weren’t my home at the time. I just looked for home in the wrong places and people, and those places and people hurt me.
That being said, Stratford feels like home already. As much as a town can, I suppose. Perhaps it’s because I’m not familiar with the landscape, there are no real memories or moments to be reminded of when I step out the front door. The times we have spent in Stratford have been completely positive — and if they aren’t, Jo and I have had a much easier time coming together to figure it out. The geography of where you are might not matter, but the environment and atmosphere in which you place yourself does. The fact that everything in our new home is brand new — not the items, of course, but the experience and feeling of being here — even for Jo, who is seeing a new, developed side of the town they grew up in, means that there aren’t any moments or memories to hang onto, and the only thing for us to do now is to make new ones.
“At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and have never been before.”— Warsan Shire