Home Grown: Home, Belonging and Identity
The young lawyer wrote fervently; the remnants of his lunch pushed aside as he took notes with pen and a hastily produced paper. I was discussing the legal definition of a dwelling, over lunch on the weekend. The four of us young professionals were seated around a table at a busy cafe and I was outlining that the movement for ‘tiny houses’ seemed to be a bit of a legal grey area. The teeny size of a tiny house means that it is not necessarily considered a ‘house’ in the eyes of the bureaucrats. (NB: although I was seated near a lawyer while having this discussion, I myself am not of the lex persuasion. Do not quote me on the above).
The discussion of what is and is not considered a ‘house’ turned me back to thinking of what is ‘home’ in a personal and cultural sense, and what is #belonging. What is cultural and social belonging, what is personal belonging or #identity, how do the things, the places and the people we choose or have chosen for us, shape and divine our belonging and identity.
If home is where the heart is, where our feet touch the ground, than what is home?
No doubt this questions are on my mind as I’m moving house in a couple of weeks. It’s not a major move. It’s a positive move . The new place has a better kitchen – no more having pots and pans that are too big for my undersized kitchen. It’s Spring and a good time for change and growth. The bulbs I planted in the autumn have now come to life and filled my concrete courtyard with cheer. The time is right to move on, but it’s still the end to a lovely period in a happy little room of my own.
When I was a child, I had one home – a grand old dame of a villa in a small Waikato town. Not only did I have one home, I had one bedroom. I’lll have to live in new house a fair many years before I can say I’ve lived in any room longer than the fourteen years I lived in my childhood bedroom.
I still consider that house ‘home’ to a degree and am a proud Waikato girl. A couple of weeks ago I drove down to see Mum and Dad after work on Friday. It’s still a lovely feeling to return to a a town and particularly a building that you knew before you knew much else. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m still preprogrammed to find my way back to that house, and that town, from anywhere in the world. Before I knew much of the life, and the self that I am today, I knew that place intimately.
But when you get older and ‘leave home’ ,the idea of ‘home’ becomes a bit more transient. With my forthcoming move to a new place, the task of telling everyone from the bank to my mechanics of my new address seems a bit pointless if I’ll be in another rented house or dwelling within the year.
So ‘home’ becomes the people. It is true that the people who live at my childhood home, the people who sat with me at that busy cafe with me on the weekend, those whose names sit in my email inboxes, my phone call log, my Skype call log – they are my home. I would feel more at home in an unfamiliar place with them, than in a familiar place alone.
Such is my preoccupation with the romantic idea that ‘people can be our home’, I once had an iTunes playlist called ‘Home’. The playlist was made up of songs where the central narrative was the singer declaring to another that ‘you are my home’. Songs included on this list was the crooner Michael Buble’s ‘Home’ and his ‘Everything’ (where he says “You’re every line, you’re every word, you’re everything.”), and the lesser played Billy Joel ‘You Are My Home’ (subtle eh!). Key lines from this song include ‘You’re my castle, you’re my cabin…home is just another word for you’ .
I am also quick to mentally note any good uses of this motif in film and TV. As a young teenager I was obsessed with the tv show Roswell. It was my Twilight ; those vampires ain’t got nothing on the good looking aliens of the early 00s! I still remember the scene in which the sister alien says to the hunky lead alien “When I look at you, I’m home.” This line was reused later in the film ‘Finding Nemo’, when delightful supporting fish, Dory says it to Nemo. Any school kids looking for tips on writing an essay titled ‘The Use of the Motif of ‘Home’ In Modern Media’, just call me.
I am unashamedly a home body. That is not to say I don’t like going out and doing things, or going on adventures and wondering far. But I like to have somewhere stable and calm to come back to. I like to have a sense that in my home are things and tokens -talismana- of the people I have meet along my life journey. I will take these trinkets and talismans to my next home, and as I will take the freesias, the tulips and the ranunculus that I have grown. They are already in their pots, poised for the next garden.