Category: home

Can’t go back now

Heather (8:04am): But what if your heart belongs in a myriad of places that still speak your name?

As I watched the sunrise over Castle Keep from the Newcastle train station, I texted with my friend Shaun about the meaning of home. I didn’t want to leave Newcastle all over again, but more and more that week I realized that it didn’t belong to me anymore. It had moved on, but I hadn’t.

This was the cafe where I waited for my train to London the first time, just days after I first arrived in Newcastle. I ordered a lemonade and it turned out to have ginger in it, which I’m allergic to. It was a baffling moment in which I felt extremely foreign. And thirsty. Thursday I felt more capable, travelling alone once again but so accustomed to it by now. Things had come full circle, which meant that it was over.

I think that was the hard part. Being there made me realize that it really was over and I was never going to have it back. Any of it. Newcastle, Europe, school. It was all done. I took a bus that went close to my apartment, about two blocks away, and it hurt to look. My mom asked if I went to see my apartment building, but I couldn’t have. Not ever. That place was home and I loved it so much. And it belongs to someone else now. Newcastle belongs to someone else.

My friends don’t belong to me anymore either. They have lives that go on without me, and all I can hope for is a passing message or a small moment of connection. I was a visitor in a place that I used to call home.

I have lived in many homes in three different countries. And in each one I was hoping to find the place where I belonged. But now it seems like pieces of me belong to each place and no matter where I am I feel displaced.

My trip was a bittersweet whirlwind. I was there just long enough to say my goodbyes all over again. To realize it was over, stamped signed and sealed like the certificate they handed me after I walked across the stage.

In the clouds

I’m painting my childhood room. I moved back in with my parents when I came back from England, because I have absolutely no money and currently no prospects of making any.

For the past couple of days I’ve been wading through memories. Taking down high school photos and posters of Orlando Bloom. Sorting through clouds, fairies and unicorns (yes, I was that kind of kid, and no, I didn’t decorate at 8 but rather 15… I like to call it whimsical, not lame, okay?)

It’s eerie. This room, with doodles and pictures and stickers everywhere, used to be so definitively me. Cluttered, sporadic, colourful and a bit odd. Now it just seems so past, so yesterday. I smile in remembrance of the song lyrics scrawled on my white board, but I haven’t listened to those songs in years.

It’s very strange, going back and trying to still move forward. There’s a lot of throwing away and boxing up and sometimes donating in hopes that someone, somewhere, will love these things as much as I once did.

Where you want to be

I like to think that cities have souls. That there’s something that reaches out to us in your favourite cities - atmosphere, feeling, life. Something that draws us to them.

Are you a small town person, a where-everybody-knows-your-name person? Are you a big city, metropolis, crowded subway person? Are you trees and parks or skyscrapers and shopping malls? Are you peace and quiet or lively and happening? Maybe you aren’t these things. But your favourite city is. Maybe it’s the opposite of you. Maybe you’re really shy and quiet but you love a city that screams around you and you just fade into the background?

london underground, par moi

I love London. I have since the first time I stepped off the tube from Heathrow. I’ve been four times in the last two years, and I have never run out of things to do. I like the feeling of London. It’s a huge city- the world happens in London. But it has neighbourhoods and sections that are basically autonomous.  Like Neil Gaiman said in his short story, Keepsakes and Treasures, “London is mad. Multiple personality problems. All these little towns and villages that grew and crashed into each other to make one big city, but never forget the old borders.”

It’s strange because I don’t generally like big cities. In fact, I normally hate them. I don’t do well in crowded places and I find it very difficult to look past crowded high streets and chain stores to find the character of a big city.

I hated New York City. I didn’t much care for most of Dublin. But I loved Galway.

galwaybay21

Galway felt like home. On the bus ride from Dublin to Galway, you pass a beautiful ruined castle on the ocean. The tide was out and there were little tide pools among the rocks. Even though I had originally planned to live in Dublin for the summer, the minute I saw Galway I knew it was where I wanted to be. Galway is a small city, though the third largest in Ireland. It’s cobblestones, small pubs and buskers. It’s the famous Galway Bay of songs. It’s beautiful.

I don’t really feel any attachment to Newcastle. It isn’t, technically, a very big city. But it is a lot larger than I expected and it’s definitely quite crowded downtown. There’s no character in the city centre. There are only chain restaurants serving bad food and big stores. I don’t know if independent business even exists in Newcastle.

I remember, years ago, Fae told me that she was in the car coming back from somewhere, some vacation. When you drive into Pittsburgh, it suddenly appears in front of you from the highway, all hills and rivers and lights. And she said that she knew then that it was home. That no matter where she went in the world, Pittsburgh was home.

pittsburgh, par moi

I didn’t understand it at the time.

When I was young I wanted to be anywhere but there. Growing up in the suburbs leaves lots of things up to the imagination and provides very little inspiration. I rarely saw Ottawa at all, except on Canada Day or when we caught a bus to go shopping downtown. Yes, my house was home. I hadn’t known any other. But my city was not.

Now, I’m wondering what to think of this city that I come from - the one with snow and the streets I know. I used to think those streets would never take me anywhere. But at least I know where I am.

I’m conflicted about Ottawa. I will always be drawn to it, it’s so much a part of who I am, there are so many memories here.

And feeling drawn to a city is what makes it home, rather than just a place you live.

I’ll be home for Christmas

I had my nose pressed against the window as we came out of the clouds and the city of Ottawa appeared beneath me. I smiled as I saw fields of snow beneath me. After hours of traveling, glossy-eyed and sore, I touched down in Canada, in snow.

As I sit here and watch the Christmas lights turn on, house by house, in the dusk of the street behind me, I know that there is no where else I would rather be at this moment. I can’t imagine not being here, in my parents house with my cat asleep at my feet and nanaimo bars in the fridge.

I’ll see the people I missed, who missed me, one by one over this week and the next, and I’ll know that I belong. That I am home, for now.

But “home”… well, that’s another post entirely.

Thanksgiving

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada. All weekend I have been watching my friends Twitters and Facebook statuses detail their journeys home for the holiday, and I couldn’t help but be jealous.

After a couple of weeks of homesickness, I have largely adjusted to being here, but Thanksgiving was a bit too much for me to handle. I was having daydreams of turkey dinners and pumpkin pie and spending a lazy day watching seasons of TV shows with my sister while the smell of dinner wafted through the air.

Luckily, I was prepared. My Canadian friend here, Chandra (who happens to be from the same city as me, though we’d never met each other until we got to Newcastle!), and I decided to have a Canadian Thanksgiving party. It was largely a pot luck, and the guests ranged from Canadian to British, from American to Italian! I made the chickens (you have to special order a turkey, apparently!) and the rest of the food arrived on schedule!

dinnerPhoto is courtesy of Chandra!

I’ve never been away from home for a holiday. Or at least, I’ve never been away from my family for it. When I was younger we used to go to the US and spend Canadian Thanksgiving with our American friends of the family (who used to live in Canada, thus deserve TWO Thanksgivings). Thanksgiving isn’t a really big deal in Canada like it is in the US, but it’s still a good time to spend with your family and eat way too much food. Also, when I was living in Ottawa, all of my friends from high school would usually venture back from wherever they’d ended up and we’d get to hang out for a day or so at a sort of halfway point to Christmas.

I was really happy to be able to have a dinner across the ocean, and proud of myself for being able to put it together (Ahhh, growing up!) it was also great to get all of my new friends together in my lovely new apartment. But now I’m looking forward to Christmas and getting to go back home again. It still feels like home.

pie

We did get to have pumpkin pie, though! Despite the fact that apparently such an idea doesn’t exist in the UK!