I’ve thought about this for a long time. I’ve discussed it with pilgrims on the Camino. I talked about it with expat friends and colleagues where I worked in China and India and I reflected upon it when I relocated back ‘home’ to Halifax. It has followed me now for many years, 19 to be exact. Today, my musings about ‘home’, what it means to me and the impact it has had on me.
‘Hang your Hat’. When we enter our home, we hang something. We hang up our jacket, hat, or coat, or find that special place kept especially, for our purse, shoes, or boots. The ritual of ‘coming home’, is steeped in routine and the proverbial shouting of ‘I’m home!’ When I come home, I revel in the comfortable feeling of familiarity. My special mug is waiting for its coffee, the aroma of the last meal still faintly lingers in the crevices and my Ipod beckons me to turn it on. Yes. Home! I feel good here.
But, I feel this way in many places. In Chennai, my apartment was ‘home’. It was too hot to hang much when I came home, but then again, there was the ritual of hanging the keys by the front door and placing my sandals in the shoe cabinet. And I was home. I loved it there, loved being there. It was the simple things that made this place home. Like, sitting on the terrace each morning with my tea and watching the love birds play with one another. Or, sleeping with the gentle movement of air from the fan, and watching my favorite bamboo plant growing slowly in its special corner.
Again, I had a home, in China this time. Yet another 4 walls that became so familiar that I knew each crack and exactly how the curtains best drew when I closed them, the smell of the parquet flooring and the view over ‘rat alley’, as it was colloquially known, from my balcony. It became even more like home with friends lounging on the couch, music playing, and sharing a meal together. Mi casa es tu casa.
One would think that walking the Camino would not be a ‘home’. How could you call it home without 4 walls? Without a couch, or balcony to sit on? Yet, strangely enough, it was home to me, at least I felt at home. I could have stayed there on the Camino, or continued walking indefinitely and not found wanting for anything. I had everything I needed…right on my back. I even had my morning coffee ritual and my bedtime rituals. It is true, I never knew where I would lay my head or where I would eat my next meal, but somehow, this didn’t matter.
I did know that I had my favorite toothpaste with me. Little items I carried took on greater importance than they probably needed to, such as my hair conditioner that I carried all the way from India to Spain. Needless to say that when I left it standing on some shower in the hostel, I was heart broken, and not to mention, my 3 pairs of sunglasses that I lost. But, my hiking boots and my backpack became my most comfortable and irreplaceable and loved items of all on the Camino. They replaced all the furniture and comforts that I once knew from having a home and what I once believed I needed to feel at home.
Since I had a very strong feeling of home on the Camino, I reflected once more on this question…What is home….is it more than where you ‘hang your hat’?
According to the wikipedia definition of ‘home is where you hang your hat” , it states: “Rather than feeling nostalgic or sentimental, one should simply accept any place where one happens to reside as one’s home.”
Or the definition from ‘English Oxford Living Dictionary’ which says it is “North American ,informal …Be resident.
“Or the Urban Dictionary “Wherever one resides and keeps one’s belongings is home. My parents think that my apartment isn’t truly a home, but hey, home is where you hang your hat!”
And from a 12 year, here is a lovely heartfelt poem of what ‘home’ means to her…
Kieanna….Grade 6, Lindsay Ontario
Home is where you hang your hat
On that old wooden shelf
Home is where you sleep at night
In your bed cozy and tight
Sleeping with the blanket your grandma gave you
Home is a place to watch movies
In the middle of the night with your mom and dad
Where you can smell cookies baking in the stove
Home is where you can hear the birds singing
Home is a place to love one another
And tell them that you do love them
Home is where you laugh and share secrets
And where you tell the truth
Stay for awhile and have a good time
Because home is where you hang your hat
That’s what home means to me
I have many homes. no one place is more special than the next. They all hold hidden treasures, secrets, lies, love, truth and comfort. As I make new homes, wherever I go, I always find myself thinking, ” This is my home”. But, yet again, I find that it is as transient as the last. Maybe I am a nomad at heart or in my past life and I have no home, or every place is my home. But I do know that a couple of ingredients need to be present for me to begin to call it home. Three to be exact:
a) Home is comfortable and safe. Whether that is that warm, fuzzy feeling, or a comfortable temperature, healthy food or just to be myself and relax in.
b) Home is my daily routines and rituals so that my home has structure,
c) Home is a feeling of connection and love… and a loving place to lay my head at the end of a day.
The rest I can manage.
Buen Camino everyone! Be home and at home!