I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of Home. I know that many of you, like me, are wraggle-taggle gypsy types… and I wonder, where do you feel your Home is?

I’ve lived in sixteen different houses in my twenty five years. The longest I’ve ever lived in one place was five years. Now that I’ve been in Ottawa for two years, it does feel like Home in many ways. Magill is here, and we have our habits and traditions. My cats are here. At least half of my books are here. And when I return after having been away, it feels like I’m returning to the place where I belong.

But there is one place that, through all the upheaval and wanderlust, has always been the Home of my heart.

My Grandmother’s house.

I was born here. Not in the house – but this is where my mother was living when I was born, having returned there after many years of wandering. We lived there until I was two, and then we returned whenever we could. It is the center of my world, the place where holidays, birthdays, and all other important rituals happen.

And a strange house it is. You see, my Grandfather was an artist, and a designer. He planned the house – every brick and mahogany board of it. He built it for his family – my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and my mom, who was only two years old.

One year later, he was dead.

In some ways, the house was a shrine to him, to the artist he was and the father and husband he could have been, if he’d had more time. His paintings hung in every room, and his presence, or rather the lack of it, hung thick in the air. Every picture, every curve of wood and brick contained a story about him that couldn’t be forgotten.

By the time I came along, he’d been dead for almost thirty years.

And by then, the house was filled with years and years of art and collecting. My grandfather wasn’t the only artist in the family. My grandmother, my mother, my aunt, my uncle… all of them created art, and all of them collected. Every surface of the house contained treasures, and if I dug into the back of any cupboard, I was sure to find a forgotten gem – a doll my mother made as a teenager, a tea cup that had belonged to my great great aunt, an African mask, a basket woven by my aunt – it was heaven for a curious child. And I spent countless hours there, so perfectly at home.

This summer, my grandmother passed away.

And now it’s over. My mother and aunt gallantly cleared out every cupboard and every closet. They unearthed years and years of treasures, kept what they wanted, got rid of the rest. Now the house is empty, and up for sale.

When I was there for my grandmother’s funeral, they told me that if there was anything I wanted, I should take it then and there, just to be sure I got it. And I found myself grabbing at every painting, every dish, every ornament. Not because I wanted them for what they actually were, but because I wanted to preserve what they made up to me – Home.

5 thoughts on “

  1. Mm. I’m sorry about your grandma. Losing grandparents is hard. My grandmother died two years ago, now. I hate to think about losing my grampa.
    Your question is a good one. It’s related to who we consider family, which is also an interesting question. Even though I grew up in one place, I’m not sure if I have only one home. I love the farmhouse I grew up in. It feels oppressive sometimes, though. It’s been in the family since the 1860’s at least, and we want to keep it there, but I can’t see myself going back, and the feeling of responsibility almost scares me off of loving it more.
    I loved and miss Marlboro, but now that most of the people I loved have moved on, it doesn’t have the sense of community it once did. I went back this Monday night to go fencing, visit Jodi and Adam and Trevor and Julia and Allison and Bob, and clear my stuff out of Allison’s basement. I got all misty-eyed and homesick while wandering around campus (I had to borrow the library to do grad school homework), but I was homesick, because I missed Marlboro as it was, not as it is. Even Allison’s house feels less like home than it did.
    Chittenden county doesn’t feel at all like home, either. I really don’t enjoy it here, except that I’m with Rob, and in a certain sense home is wherever he is, since I’m choosing him to be family. On the other hand, none of my other family-I-choose is here.
    Who knows. Rob wants to build us a house, and I imagine that will feel like home when it eventually arrives, but for now I seem to carry my sense of home around with me. John lives in Rutland now, one of my family-I’ve-chosen, and he comes up often to have dinner with Rob and me (sometimes he brings more chosen family, too), and we sit around and drink wine and sing folk songs and play Scrabble, and that feels like home, too.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother’s passing, too.
      As much as I’d love to visit certain folks who are still at Marlboro, I don’t know if I’d really want to go back – it was like the island that time forgot while we were there… to go back and see all the new students living on their own island… it would be strange! I can only imagine how strange it must be for the profs.
      I definitely agree that home is about people, most of all. But sometimes I really wish that all the people I love lived in the same country, at least! I think that would make identifying Home easier.

  2. *hugs* I’m sorry about your grandmother. I thought it was awful when you mentioned what was happening with the house last week — I feel it even more seeing the pictures. It looks so beautiful.

  3. Hardest thing I’ve read in years
    After I finally figured out how to find your livejournal page, which took some doing, I scrolled down to find these familiar images of dad’s painting, and the house. I am so glad, my dearest, you were not here as we sold off our treasures at the estate sale. When we emptied the last items from the echoing rooms, it felt like the end of an era of both wonders and ghosts. We went back a week ago to show the house, and it was sad. All the cracks and worn spots that had absorbed our DNA for three generations were weeping. Now I just want it to be done, but times are uncertain and so the house sits, contemplating its own demise, or its rebirth, whichever comes first. (Somehow, I had hoped the home of your heart was the farm, where you had the freedom to roam and commune with the fairies.) But who can know these secrets until the time comes to say goodbye, to release the past and to embrace whatever new places and people we find on the path? Just know that it isn’t the place, but the spirit of it that stays embedded in the soul, that matters. Life is all change, all the time. As you miss the house of your childhood, so do I miss that beautiful, curly-haired baby you were. I will miss the house, but I miss you more. You are still and always the child of my heart. Be happy. Love, Mums

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