We are home. Not really, actually, I, am home. N is off teaching in a summer festival in Vitoria, and h & M are spending some time with their grandparents in Spain while I sort myself out. As a family, we have spent 6 intensive weeks together in Taipei, celebrating my mother’s 70th birthday, and trying to reconnect for a little longer than usual.
Although born in Taipei, it is not a place I think about often. Having lived all around the world most of my life, I no longer consider ~home~ to be one specific place; however, the concept of ~home~ is always not far from my mind. I have been eluded by the idea of having a place where everybody knows my name, I am often envious of N, since he can trace his last name to a town in Southern France, as well as ancestors from the 14th century. To me, this is fairy tale: to know your roots, or just to have roots at all, and to know and love a place so deeply that you feel a sense of identity and pride when speaking about it. I don’t have this. There, I said it. I admit it, I don’t have a place where I can safely and proudly call home, nor can any place claim me as a native. This saddens me on a subconscious level and it surfaces itself over and over again when people ask me where I am from.
I have had to re-define the idea of home and roots throughout my adult life. To me, home is a memory, a relationship to a time, a song, an expression I understand and know how to use, a familiar book and where I was when I read it, it is an age that I no longer recall, but can still distinctly feel how I felt at the time. It is where I go to rest my soul, it could be in the past, or it could be in the present, it is a familiarity that I create over and over again, in my mind, as well as in my body. It may be a piece of music I have performed, or it could be a friend’s name that brings a smile to my face when I murmur his or her name; it could even be a place that I have only visited once, like the highlands of Scotland, where I left a little piece of myself years ago backpacking alone. I vowed that someday I would find an opportunity to live there, but so far, I have yet to make that home a reality. The point is, when I think of Scotland, my heart skips a beat, then it senses a silent joyous calm that only home can bring us. Home, is also our bedroom in Tiana (Spain) where I gave birth to both of my children, or where h & M learned to roller blade (Taipei), or where they first had to learn French (our current home in southern France), or it is whenever and wherever they decide to take my hand. In essence, it is a relationship rather than a physical home.
I have learned that I am not in my elements when I am in Taipei or any other big cosmopolitan metropolis, where my body and my children can be taken care of without me having to do anything. Excellent food is brought to me for very affordable prices, and if I wish, every part of my body can be maintained at any age my heart desires, by someone else other than myself. Essentially, all I have to do is earn enough money to upkeep this routine. By the second week, I no longer craved for any more food nor clothes. All I really wanted was a moment to sit down with an old friend and chat for 9 hours, or browse eternally in a bookstore where the language seems foreign, but the excitement of being in one is familiar. By the third week, I was ready to go home and weed my garden, but alas, there are still three more weeks to go. Yet in the last week, my heart felt the same heaviness as I did when I moved away from a place where I have lived for a many years. I got a chance to re-connect with some friends from 38 years ago, and have not seen for the last 32 years. It doesn’t matter that we have all led very different lives in different parts of the world, we have learned different languages, and we have chosen different life paths, all it seemed to matter was that we had the same memories 38 years ago, and we validated each other’s childhood, and in result, we validated each other. We laughed at our similarities and at our differences, we compared our experiences, we shared our dreams of re-connecting more in the future, and we are back to our own lives. But with a little bit more. Taipei is also home to me now because of the laughs and tears shared, and I hold these memories and carry them with me as a hermit crab does her home that she carries with her.
I am home now, physically. I am reminded that nothing I own ever matters more than the person I love. A stain on the wall or on a furniture is never worth a fight or a tear. None of our dishes or glasses match each other, and I don’t plan to buy any sets in the future. When a dish breaks or chips, it means that there has been food shared, and somebody besides me was washing it. This, is home, not a set of flawless impeccable kitchenware. Nor is a neatly put away toy chest, but rather, the nightly routine of picking toys off of the floor. A living home, a home that is lived in, filled with life, not perfection.
As for myself, I will continue to put down roots wherever I live. I no longer worry about whether a favorite plant may need to be uprooted the next time I move. I will plant trees, and I will plant flowers, I will plant vegetables and play music. And when we need to move again, I will have contributed to my continuous home that I carry with me, wherever we decide to place our physical things next. May the next generation enjoy the fruits from the trees we have planted, and the sight of yearly bloom that comes only with a flower planted years ago.
What does home mean to you? and what does it smell like? what color comes to mind?