Saturday, November 13, 2010

My New Home

This evening I read the following passage in a work of fiction. It's from The Conversations at Curlow Creek, by David Malouf:
It was one of the many contradictions of Adair's existence that though he was by nature a man who would have liked nothing better than to see the sun rise and set each day on the same bit of turf, he had spent all the years of his manhood, thirteen to be precise, in one foreign army or another far from home -- if by home one means not four walls and a roof, with a fire and a chair before it, but the place of one's earliest affection, where that handful of men and women may be found who alone in all the world know a little of your wants, your habits, the affairs that come nearest your heart, and who cares for them.

Of all of my siblings [five of us in total] I am the one that has settled furthest from the nucleus. Atomically speaking, I am, far and away, the furthest flung electron. And I find that as my parents have now both passed on, the idea of "home" has indeed shifted a bit, for me.
There was a time when going "home" for Christmas etc., had a certain inimitable feel to it. I still have the desire to go back to the place where I grew up, and all that, but now I feel just a little bit more as though I am imposing myself on others. As though I am a guest. In someone else's "home".
As the only one of us five that have never married nor produced offspring, there is a tendency for me to sometimes feel as though I am in the way.
But GOD, I love my family, every one of them.
They are constantly inviting me to spend time with them, in their "homes".

When I first read the above passage tonight while drinking ten gallons of coffee at Starbucks, the part I loved best was where Malouf's narrator mentioned "home" as being "the place of one's earliest affection."
I agree and I disagree.

Thanks to the wonder of Google Maps, the above photograph is the very house I most think of, as "home".
I grew up there, on Argyle Street.
I could not believe that I so easily found it tonight, with a simple search.
The truck in the driveway? I do not know who owns it.
But that green building behind it?
That was once my "home".
And yet -- it isn't my "home" today.
There is an inner closet wall in that house -- up in an area that will never have reason to be repainted -- that says, in scribbled pencil "I was here."
I wrote those words in November of 1972, when I was nine years old.
The current tenants [whoever they are] walk past those words of mine every day, not knowing that they exist. And if they ever found them, they would not know who put them there.….
[How precociously prescient of me, to use the past tense "was".]

My point is -- I agree with the idea of home being "the place of one's earliest affection."
But what is said next in the Malouf excerpt is even more important.
For me, the above building, the "four walls" of it represent "home" only insofar as my parents are still alive in it, inviting me for a visit.
This place here, where I am typing these words tonight, basically saying to you, my blogger friends, "I am here"……. this -- this is my new home.



Stefanie said...

Lovely reflection on home Cip. Both my parents still live in the house I grew up in but it isn't really home in the sense that it used to be home. Interesting time and life change things like that.

Anonymous said...

Nice post drawing beautifully from Malouf. Your reflections reminded me of taking my 95 years old (as she was then, she's now 96) ma-in-law back to her old home. It involved a 600km (or so) drive but it was so worth it. And as we were walking past the house, the present owner was working in the front yard. He noticed us talking about the house and was keen to talk. He invited us in, but she's legally blind and we didn't want to impose, but he loved hearing the history as her parents built the house soon after she was born ... and she loved sharing. The house was important - but important for the memories it brought back of her family life. She didn't need to go inside...