Home condensed into four letters. Yet it starts so grand!
A flood of colours; a warm cover of affection; a cascade of noise. Home. Noise, more like. The noisiest noise, if that’s even possible. Home is everything in that tiny head with bulging eyes. It is the world, the universe condensed inside a feeling of belonging. A feeling you express most eloquently by crying.
The universe is 2x2m, it’s known as “home” and its president, mother, and prime minister is that big woman you have your first feelings for. You’re happy. You haven’t cried in almost five minutes. You start crying.
At some point your mind can’t fit inside the 2x2m of this universe anymore. There are other colours now. New noise. Even more affection, yet somehow, counter-intuitively, less affectionate. You’ve reached your first contradiction. Your brain swells trying to comprehend it. You cry some more.
Home is that other noise and colours. These ones are nice, too, but those other ones are better.
Toys. You know about toys now. Your brain must be SO HUGE to fit the idea of an inanimate representation of a biological specimen, rendered in a plastic body and polymer hair. You’re proud of yourself. So proud, in fact, you won’t cry! You’ve already noticed you are the only one doing that and it kinda bothers you. You want to belong, after all. But, toys, man! They are SO AWESOME. Home is where all your favourite toys are. That much is clear!
You visit that other woman you call Old Mama. All your toys are there,
too! You must be home, then! Mama and Papa leave you with Old Mama. It can’t be home, then!
Home is where you’re all together! You cry in exasperation!
home (n.) - One’s own dwelling place; the house in which one lives; esp., the house in which one lives with his family; the habitual abode of one’s family; also, one’s birthplace. [1913 Webster]
Fast-forward a few years. You can speak now. You even go to kindergarten. You know now that everyone has their own home. You don’t even bother thinking about simple things like “home” now. You know what “home” is. Everyone does. I mean, if you don’t, you must be like 4! So immature!
You have a new teacher now. He speaks funny but you kinda like it. It’s more.. melodic. Like a song.
He says that back home they don’t teach kids in big groups like here. That he only taught at most 5 kids, so you better behave, or he’ll have to be strict and you don’t want him to be strict with you!
You’re a bit confused. He was teaching kids at his house? Everyone knows that you go to kindergarten for that!
After lunch, the realisation dawns on you - he meant his country. Yeah, you suppose your country could be called “home”. It’s really the same, just that much bigger!
You happily have your afternoon nap.
home (n.) - One’s native land; the place or country in which one dwells; the place where one’s ancestors dwell or dwelt. [1913 Webster]
Fast-forward past your first day of school. Past the rebellous hormone-fuelled angst. Past your first love.
First breakup. First __
Time to move out now. You don’t really want to move out, let alone to a different country, but you know it’s the right thing to do. Or, rather, The Right Thing To Do ™. It’s so tiring to think about the future! And with such certainty, too! You can’t go over the reasons yet again. You almost surrender into the the decision, exhausted by the forces of reason and rational thinking.
You talk of “home” as some distant land now. That place, beyond the 3-hour flight. Beyond the endless queues, the security checks and border control. That place where coursework ceases to matter. “Home”. It’s both the country and the home. The family and the company. The people and the feeling. Home.
And, then, you find yourself needing to stay at university over the break. Nothing you can do, there’s work to be done. You miss “home” but you’re okay here, too. You’re comfortable. You have friends.
You fall in love. She can’t come with you to your “home”. Home stops being so homely, all of a sudden.
You graduate. Start work. You still go back home for the holidays.
Then, one day, you find yourself talking to your girlfriend on the phone. “Yeah, I’ll be back home in a few minutes,” you say. Surprised, you stop in midstep. You’ve used that word to describe that place before. In fact, you’ve used it many times. This is different. This time you mean it. “Is everything okay?” your phone says distantly. “Yeah, everything’s fine,” you answer with a newly found sense of satisfaction.
home (n.) - the abiding place of the affections, especially of the domestic affections. [1913 Webster]
So precise a definition. “Domestic affections indeed,” you groan. You close the dictionary and look around. It does feel domestic, you admit begrudgingly.
You think back to that tree house from your childhood. Smiling, you say to the empty room, “That’s home, too.”
Who says we only get to keep one?