© J Davis Studio
After a Sunday diversion, here we are in the second week of the A to Z Challenge. H falls on the perfect day for me, since I've just come back from a weekend staying with my family – and it got me thinking about what home means.
When I went off to university, even though I was hundreds of miles away for more than half the year, home was always the house I grew up in – the place I came back to in the holidays. It was Christmas and Easter and long summer days. It was stripping off the layer of independence I'd grown while I was away and returning to childhood. I thought of it with love and nostalgia every term, only to be driven mad by it just a few days after each return. Home was something simultaneously comforting and frustrating.
Even when I moved out for good and headed off to start a new job and a new life in a new place, it was years before I thought of anything other than my family home as 'home'. I was alone in a strange place, renting a house with people I'd only just met – nothing I'd learned to associate with home was there. Yet at the same time, my family home was changing. The people in it were living their lives without me. My room was no longer my room, my possessions packed away until I had space for them. When I went back to visit, I felt like a guest. In a sense, I was homeless.
I only really found home again when my partner and I moved into a permanent house of our own – and even then it wasn't immediate. The uprooting that comes from leaving a childhood home is sudden; the process of putting down new roots somewhere else is much more gradual. But it did happen in the end. I can't pinpoint exactly when, but there came a time when I stopped referring to the place I'd grown up as home, even in my head. And now I've reached that stage in my life, I know I always will have somewhere to call home – because home is no longer where I was, but where I am.