Wednesday, December 2, 2009

There's No Place Like Home?

I left home just shy of my 18th birthday. I had spent my entire teenage period plotting escape from Pembroke Place. I couldn't wait to leave. It had little to do with my parents or where I lived, more so that I was eager to live my life and do things 'my way'. I longed for adventure, independence and the opportunity to discover what was out there. I couldn't wait to be financially independent. I longed for the freedom to pay for things with my own money and not have to ask or rely on anyone. I also didn't want anyone telling me to make my bed or what to wear. Those things seemed important at 18. You know how it is.

I didn't get very far, Geographically - just 167 kilometres up the road. Psychologically, it was a different planet. I was in teenage heaven. I had my own room in a hostel filled with like-minded girls. I could say "women" to be politically correct, but we were girls. There were 72 of us, all out on our own - most of us for the first time and beginning our foray into academia. I had ready access to alcohol, cigarettes and everything else I could possibly have wanted. As an only child, becoming a member of a family of 72 should have been rather daunting but I reveled in it. What a joy to have 71 sisters and endless wardrobe options.

Two years later I moved into what we called 'digs' - a shoddy, old, poorly-kept house in the centre of my University town and an 11 minute walk from my beloved Drama department. I loved that house. My parents all but wept when they saw it, but I could not have been happier. I had a huge room, a blue bathroom, a kitchen the size of an aeroplane toilet and hectares of freedom. Joy!

After graduating, I returned 'home' to Pembroke Place for 6 months to work in order to save money for my next adventure - my big move to London. Home was a challenge after 4 years of my own space, but having someone do my washing, ironing and cooking was now very much appreciated! I loved those 6 months teaching Drama at 2 different schools, waitressing by night. I had a great time but got to the point where I was very ready to leave home again.

London unfolded herself to me as only London can. She is a multi-layered, wise old city with many secrets. You have to offer yourself to London almost like a sacrifice and then she invites you in. You can't go there with any preconceived notions of fairytale and spotlights. You have to earn London. I wanted London to be home. I fell deeply in Love with Her. Throughout, there was this pervasive knowledge that I had a home in South Africa, a safety net with bed (usually unmade). I lived in many houses in London, some nicer than others. I would happily have stayed there for all eternity. But I fell in love with a boy who was on his own adventure.

I took my boy to Pembroke Place, my home, to meet my family. He took me to his home in Prestonpans, Scotland to meet his. Soon after we bought our own home in Sydney which we left for another home in Ireland. Still, if you were to ask me where I'm from or where my home is, I'd tell you Pembroke Place.

Except, as of yesterday, Pembroke Place is occupied by another family and my family now lives somewhere else. Somewhere I have not even seen. Somewhere that is not home at all. My soul is anchored so strongly by that notion of 'home' and that is how I've leveraged the uncertainly of our vagabond life. I have spent the last few weeks feeling oddly rootless and unsettled and it has taken me until now to really figure it out. I climbed the trees in that garden. When my grandparents passed, we had Prayers for them in that lounge. I learnt the piano in that Family room. I learnt to swim in that pool. We celebrated my 21st and the rehearsal dinner for my Wedding there. I brought my baby home to Pembroke Place to meet our extended clan. Everything of major significance centres around that house. That house that I was so desperate to leave, but has now left me.

This leaves me with quite an awesome responsibility - a call to order almost. Now it's my turn to make that home for my son. I had thought that leaving home meant I was a grown up.... but 15 years later, it is Home leaving me that has made it happen.

1 comment:

Barbara Scully said...

Thats a great and very interesting post.. I loved hearing about all your 'homes' and you raise an interesting point about your 'family' home.

I love about 2 miles from my family home and so still visit regularly. But as my mother is getting older and the house is getting shabbier and a little unkempt I am getting less and less sentimental about it. Or am I? Perhaps it will only be when it is no longer 'ours' that I will find out!

Keep writing - like your blog!