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What Do You Call Home?

I’ve been musing on home a little recently. On what makes somewhere home…

I’ve been musing on home a little recently. On what makes somewhere home, and what we call home. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that we’re finally going to have a home we own in the very near future. Which is wonderful and terrifying and exciting all at once, and also involves a lot of packing boxes and packing tape and the discovery that I’m not going to get rid of as many books as I think I’m going to, and I’ll probably keep all the clothes I don’t wear, too. But the odds are also good I’ll find those headphones I’ve been looking for since January, so there’s that. There’s also a road trip with the long-suffering Little Furry Muse to plan, which should be … interesting. Anyhow.

I’ve previously written about the fact that, while I love travelling, it’s not always as glamorous or easy as Instagram likes to tell us. Not that I’m complaining, as I know I’ve been lucky to travel as much as I do, and to keep doing so (something I’m reminded of every time I step off the plane in Tonga and smell salt air and hot earth and memories).

what do you call home,

This is Tonga. This is home, in many ways.

But going away has another advantage that it’s easy to forget. We always remember that excitement of leaving, of dropping our bag at the counter and walking through the security gates with the weird sense of there’s no turning back now. Of arriving somewhere new, somewhere soaked in unfamiliar scents and painted with light that just isn’t the same as what we’re used to. Of shops selling mystifying products and people using words we’ve never heard, of streets that lead to the unknown and the bewildering and the exciting. And, you know, probably a brand name shop or restaurant, because, seriously. They’re hard to get away from.

What we don’t tend to remember is the coming home.

I think I felt it more keenly after my latest trip, because I’ve been away a lot over the last nine months or so, for one reason or another. And when I came back from Tonga in March I barely managed to figure out what time I was meant to be waking up before we headed to the UK for a week. Which was awesome, by the way. We spent the whole time in the Yorkshire Dales, a.k.a. Beaufort Scales country. And I ate some truly excellent scones. Oh, and we found a house. So, yeah, good trip.

what do you call home,

Dragon country, I’m telling you. Soon to be home.

None of which is the point of the blog. The point is, coming home.

I’ve moved a lot. For most of my adult life, I’ve barely spent three years at a time in one country, let alone one apartment (wait – I’m going to have to stay in this one. Hang on. How does that work?). Home can sometimes feel like a weird concept. New Zealand is home, in that I come from there, but I spent so long growing up in Tonga that I call that home, too. And as an actual grown-up person who comes home to somewhere after travelling, it can be hard to pin down just what that is. After all, the SO and the Little Furry Muse move with me, so although they’re home, the location’s a bit fluid.

So what is home?

what do you call home,

This is New Zealand, and it’s home too.

I guess it’s what you miss. Not in a twist-in-your-gut type way, where something feels physically lost, the way I miss those I love, furry and not. And not in an excited-to-have-it-again way, where it’s a treat and you look forward to it, like I miss Whittaker’s chocolate or fresh-caught mahi-mahi. No, it’s something deeper and subtler.

I miss the fact that my pillow is just the right broken-down softness for me.

I miss my favourite mug. Tea never tastes the same elsewhere.

I miss the sight of my books stacked on the shelves, getting dusty and waiting to be read.

I miss sitting on the sofa in my PJs with the SO and the Little Furry Muse, watching Netflix and eating bread and cheese.

what do you call home,

This is home. It’s also apparently the centre of a post-it explosion.

I miss the fairy lights over my desk, and my reference books and notebooks and stack of post-its and mug full of mismatched pens and highlighters and old pencils.

I miss the paintings on the walls, even though I don’t take time to notice them as much as I should.

I miss the fluffy blankets on the sofa and the collection of soft toys and dragons, each of which has its own story of where (and often who) it came from.

I miss the sense of having a space that no one else can lay claim to. A space that is mine. And yes, it’s inextricably linked with the space that is the SO’s and the Little Furry Muse’s, but that’s because that’s the way it should be. They are my family, and they are home, too.

what do you call home,

Little furry muses make homes, too. Even grumpy ones.

There’s a saying about not appreciating home until we’ve gone away and come back to it, and I think that’s true. I also think that it’s harder to define home until we go away and come back again. Home, for me, is not about place. It’s not even about things, although I have listed things. It’s about familiarity and safety and comfort, and it’s about a shape in the world that you’ve made for yourself, the way a small creature makes a nest around its body.

Because what are we, other than small creatures making safe spaces in the world?

I’m off to work on packing up this particular nest now. And I think I have room for more bookshelves in the new one …

what do you call home,

You can’t tell me there aren’t dragons in those there hills.

How do you define home, lovely people? Let me know below!

home, life, NZ, self care, tonga, travel, travelling, writing

  1. First of all, I love the observation that we are small creatures making safe spaces in the world. That’s beautiful!

    Interestingly enough, I think of the place where I grew up as the place where I grew up, not as home. When I think of home, I think of where I became an adult and began my adult life, which is pretty close to where I live right now. Part of that is because this is where I met my husband and had my children, and part of it is because this place marks where I was living when I broke free from my family and became a healthier person. There’s something to be said for coming back to a place that has your favorite people, your favorite bookshelves, your favorite mug, and everything that could never be someone else’s without losing a little bit of its specialness.

    1. Kim says:

      Aw, thank you! I’m glad you liked that bit 🙂

      For many years I never really considered NZ as home. It was just where I came from. But as I’ve grown older I’ve discovered that I feel such a connection to it every time I go back – not to any particular location (in fact, the island I grew up on is so posh now that it feels like another country entirely), but to the whole New Zealand-ness of it. It’s most odd, but surprisingly nice.

      And yes! I think the becoming an adult and growing into oneself is part of the reason for my connection to Tonga. I spent time growing up there, but it’s also where I lived and worked when I first left NZ. Dad was in the same country, but in a different island group, so it was where I really had a chance to start to become me. That’s a special thing.

Comment away! (Points awarded for comments involving cats, tea, or baked goods)

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