The chronic discomfort that comes along with the privilege of having seen and lived in so many different places. Today my homesickness is for the city in the West of Ireland where I spent the whole of my 20s. A good friend of mine had a health scare within their family, and I’d love nothing more at this moment to be sitting at their kitchen table, chatting over pots of tea and her delicious home-cooked food. Actually, it was in this kitchen, about two years ago, that I found myself acknowledging that my years of bouncing between cities, crashing on friends’ couches, being non-committal to any and all living and work situations, had come to an end. Maybe it was because this was a Mom’s house, with photos around the house, plants, paintings and artwork from the now-grown-up children…it seemed so … wonderful! to me. I spoke the words out loud ‘I really want to have a Home now’. I said them to no one in particular, but my friend’s Mom, who was preparing food at the kitchen counter, over-heard me and quietly tittered but said nothing in response, leaving the spoken words hovering in the air for a moment, just simmering. A few months later, I settled into a little house on a hill, over-looking the most beautiful mountain-valley scene you will ever behold. A year and half later, I am on hiatus working elsewhere for five months, and I am painfully homesick for my little house. In it, I know where everything is, my shoes are lined up at the backdoor. Nothing is packed up in storage, my whole material and practical life is in that house. The kitchen is fully stocked with things that only a Settled person would have in their kitchen, and that, to travellers, is an often-missed luxury as it takes up too much space in a backpack (i.e. muffin tins! Yeast! A spice rack!). Luckily a friend has been staying with me for a few months and will hold down the fort until I get Home, but I have found, already, after only one month away, that that house means so much more to me than I realised.
We used to have a family cottage that was sold two year ago, right after my Mom passed away. It had been in the family for two generations so far, and when she passed my grandmother realised that no one in my generation was in a position to take it on after her. So, the heartbreaking decision to sell. I never went back for a final visit. The day it sold, thousands of miles away across the Atlantic ocean, I felt it in my heart. More than my parents’ house where I grew up, when I close my eyes I can see every single detail of that cottage on the sea. The wallpaper, the smell, the antique family furniture, my Grandma, always working away in the kitchen, baking bread or doing her crosswords at the big round kitchen table. It belongs to some other family now, and it doesn’t seem right. But I doubt I will ever go and see it again. All of our childhood summers, some winters, were spent there. We lived on the beach, up at dawn, out the door, only coming in when we were called for lunch. Grandma met us at the door with a bucket of water to wash the beachy sand off us – however she never quite got it all and the little footprints of sand all over the house were testament to our adventures. Jake, the village dog, was outside waiting for us every morning. My little friend, Jennifer, who lived next door, would put the kitchen blind up so I knew when her parents were awake and I could go over and get her to play. An idyllic childhood.
Our other cottage, from the other side of the family, on a beautiful lake in Quebec. Also, sold long ago when my Grandpa passed away. Originally it was a pretty rustic little shack on the side of the mountain, looking down towards the water. Early in the mornings my Grandmaman would show me this figure down below, which looked like a floating chandelier in the water. I couldn’t believe it. A moose! Out for his morning swim! I loved when she walked down to the waterside with me and my brother; we’d do a little ‘parade’ and make lots of music with pots and pans. It only occurred to me a few years ago we were actually telling the bears in the area we were coming. How like my Grandmaman not to spoil a perfectly innocent childhood activity with fear…of bears! Ha! The same as the other cottage, we would go to bed with sand between our toes every day.
On the other hand, the holiday season having just passed, I spent Christmas Eve and Day lamenting that I was not with my family in Canada, where I grew up. Our family has significantly shrunk over the last few years, and the thought of my little band of kinfolk sitting around the table as always, minus a few loved ones who have passed on, brought me to tears several times. ‘The Sea is Wide / And I cannot swim over / nor have I / the wings for to fly’ kept playing in my head. There was nothing I could do but hunker down in my current location and be grateful to be alive and well, and in a pretty sweet spot for the winter! But the feeling of being so intensely torn in multi directions…it is one I suppose I will always have and will have to make peace with. There is no one place I love more than the others. It is a complete and equal split.
I have to consider myself lucky that I have so many heart connections with people around the world. The reality is, I cannot be with every one of them all at once. Two years ago, when I had just found what would become my first adult home, I heard a refrain in my mind. ‘Plant your feet, plant your feet’. I realised that when you plant your feet in a place, things grow. I have a garden, but I’m not just talking about that! Opportunities arise, and with this new type of security, you have the time to get to know a different side of yourself. More aspirations can arise, now that you have a base from which to access resources and make connections. I’ll never regret my decision to plant my feet. I owe it to these friends of mine whose home triggered something in me that day, when I spoke the words aloud and the Mom tittered, it set off a chain of reactions that led me to finding exactly what I needed.
Until I can be with them at their kitchen table in Real Life, writing this will have to temporarily suffice. During the process of writing, I in fact WAS transported to their kitchen table. I could almost smell something delicious in the oven, and hear the radio.
The magic of the mind and pen when paired!