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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

Homecoming

"Where thou art, that is home.” Emily Dickinson

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the notion of ‘home’ and of what it means to feel ‘at home’. One of my travelling children has recently returned from two years in London. It is a brief visit until her next adventure which will take her to Ireland. In her absence we moved out of what had been her childhood/teenage/young adult home. She came back to boxes and suitcases and unfamiliar spaces but was able, in her usual style, to inhabit this new place without any degree of discomfort. It seems that home to her did not mean house, it meant people. Her reintegration into our new residence was assisted by familiar things; her favourite teddy that was given to her when she was six weeks old was thoughtfully rescued from the packing boxes and lay in wait on her bed. She also reconnected with a considerable wardrobe of shoes and clothes that had been left behind and thought forgotten. But two days of scattering it all over the floor rendered apparent treasures.

She was home.


But her reunion with family made me consider my own recent hankering for the familiarity of my home town. I grew up in Launceston Tasmania. It’s a beautiful little city full of the complexities of its colonial beginnings and modernising phases that included some spectacularly unattractive cement 1970s architecture. The buildings aside, the place exudes an extraordinary timelessness. I step back into my past every time I return. These visits have been few in recent years. Since my parents died fifteen years ago I found it difficult to go back. It seemed that in my head the loss would be too evident if I was there and they weren’t. But of course this proved not to be true. In fact it was in returning home that I was able to reconnect with other family and friends and enjoy the shared experience of reminiscence. It seemed that ‘home’ in this instance was embedded in memories and story-telling.

The location is an adjunct to remembrance. Its sights, sounds and smells elicit the connection to the child I was, the lessons I learned and the people I loved. I was not the same person; obviously much older, hopefully much wiser but still in this familiar world I could at least see who I had been. It was a complete evocation of the senses to walk well-known roads and visit the places in which I’d grown up. They were all at once the same and yet different. Things that were very clear in my mind were no longer so certain when faced with the reality of their actuality.  ‘Home’ is complicated. As Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.” Even when the towns, the houses, the neighbourhoods remain the same, you take your changed self into that place of your past and see it through new eyes. For better or worse.

So where is home? What is home? Is it the space created for you inside a house? Or the place of your childhood? Is it memories or people? Is it hometowns or birth nations? Or does home reside in the human heart?  That safe place that calls us when we need solace, protection or the contentment that comes with immersing in the familiar. Or sometimes the place we long to escape. Most likely it is all of these that form a complicated nexus that cannot be separated into its parts. We leave home, long for home, become homesick, rejoice in the homecoming and sometimes we can’t wait to leave again. It is a human contradiction that almost defies our definitions. But without doubt ‘home’ is important to us. Maybe more than a place it is a state of being.

Things to contemplate.

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