Distantly you recognise an outline….a tree, a rooftop, the crest of a hill….and in your stomach something moves upwards towards your heart. In the pleasant surge, there is a pinprick of anxiety; because what you have recognised is a glimpse into somewhere you know you are absolutely safe…..but you are not there yet. Like an eager puppy looking through the travelling car’s window, your heart has reached it before you — Home.
The safety I’m referring to has got to do with feeling unthreatened by danger or risk, of having complete freedom to be who you are….to be well in your Self. If you are fortunate to have grown up in a home that was a haven from the outside world, a home where you were loved and where your personality could blossom and thrive, where you had the togetherness of family, where you were included and where you mattered and where, in your eyes, your parents or guardians were invincible, you will always have a sense of being connected to home — it is an association with everything being right. This sense of ‘home’ has nothing to do with a place being grand or spacious and luxurious, or fabulously styled and decorated… or even beautiful…it has everything to do with where you felt safe while you were a child.
So you have memories of smells and sounds that evoke feelings; unconsciously you hold onto these as though they are treasures. They are treasures.
A particular window where the afternoon sun slanted through into the room where your mother ironed clothes, the radio in the background playing vacantly while she was alone with her thoughts. A pot near the door where a sad plant could not make up its mind whether to live or die and yet your mother nursed it and coaxed it as though it was an endangered, rare specimen. A funny hook in a funny place where the kitchen door key always was hung – no logical reason or explanation, that is just how it was. I am making these things up, they are not my memories, but it’s the sort of odd assortment of things we all carry somewhere deep in our psyche. Then as adults we try and recreate this safe haven for our husbands, for our children, for ourselves. We want to make a nest.
My childhood home was a farmhouse a few hundred years old, built of lime and flat Batavian-type clay bricks, its original six rooms added onto over the years until it was a higgledy-piggledy assortment of many rooms. We were seven children and some of us had phobias about certain “creepy” areas in the big house, particularly one dark corner of the sitting room where a copper pot faintly gleamed and was believed to be the devil’s eye – but in safety we outgrew our fears. Today there is so much that we laugh about. I believed my room had a friendly ghost, I was certain I could hear it, but nothing would induce me to move out. More than anything, my large bedroom with its wooden floor, high ceiling and very deep window behind whose curtain I spent many an afternoon reading, was my personal haven.
The road up to the farmhouse felt interminably long after a day at school and the jolting journey back on the school bus. We walked wearily, and I confess I dreamed of Charlie Brown lemonade stalls being stationed along the way. I once complained to my mother that it was too far to walk (probably about 350 metres) and she offered to send Aaron to fetch me with a wheelbarrow – of course she wasn’t serious but I felt insulted all the same. But actually, I loved that road. Because walking along – even when the hot summer sun glared off the gravel and sand and grasshoppers scattered about me as I trudged – meant I was going home.
The school bus would gather speed as it roared down the hill towards our farm entrance; just 150 metres from our gate I would for the first time be able to glimpse the tall Blue Gum trees and the old barn behind them. After a week at boarding school, this was what my eyes sought every Friday afternoon: the first sight of home. A day came when I looked towards the trees and something was wrong. The picture had changed and I didn’t recognise it at all. I was stupefied. Stomping up the road, my horror grew by what was becoming clear to see: charred walls of a burnt down barn. Nobody had told me that this had happened in the week while I was away, I was completely unprepared.
I lived on that farm for the best part of 22 years until my father retired and one of my brothers rook over. No matter how many years have passed, the farm and all that happened there will always be in me. Just as the prairie that I now call home also will be. Home is where things are familiar, need no explanation, and where you feel comfortable. Home is slippers on, fridge stocked, a collection of belongings that feel like old friends.
Think, if you were forced to leave your home because of a natural disaster, or a war, and you fretted and worried while you temporarily stayed somewhere else, longing to return to where you belong, and the day came that you could go back, how would it be? Would you be anxious for that first glimpse? Of course you would. It must be like being reunited with somebody you love more than words.
We all carry that road in our hearts – the road home.