Wednesday, 23 November 2011

HOME is a LOADED word


On a late summer evening just a couple of months ago, we touched down at Ottawa International Airport and were greeted by our extended family and a group of others from Nicholas' new care 'home'.
Above is a photo someone snapped that evening of Nick's new extended family! You can tell by their smiles that they are kind and fun - a great combination of qualities!

After much hugging and collection of multiple bags, we assembled our convoy of vehicles. I rode in the Ottawa Rotary Home wheelchair van with Nick and everyone followed to see our young man's new digs. We were all excited and nervous, but happy. Natalie had said her goodbyes to London, Jim was contemplating retirement from the foreign service, I had plans to write more and Nicholas was moving out of our home into his own. Our family was moving away from a home that was not really our home, although we tried our best to make it so. Jim's job as Canada's High Commissioner to the UK meant that we lived in the official residence. The house and its furnishings were beautiful, but we were just temporary tenants who shared the surroundings happily. The real landlords were all Canadians.

Every time our family has packed up to move, I have talked about the meaning of 'home' to the children. As moving day approached, they felt keenly the loss of friends, cottage traditions and familiarity. "Home is wherever we are", I would say, "we carry it inside of ourselves. All we need for home is to be together".

Now that Nicholas is living in his new home (which doesn't feel like home to him yet), we have to rethink our ideas about our home too. Natalie now considers her home to be Toronto - she has no romantic memories of her younger years in Ottawa. As a 'global nomad' kid, it's no wonder that she is majoring in transnational studies at Trinity College. "Where are you from?" has always been a complicated question for her.

So yesterday, I was visiting Nicholas and we were planning a visit 'home' this Saturday. Jim had suggested that we no longer call our house 'home' when we are talking to Nick. Rather, we should name it 'the old house', or 'Tillbury Avenue'. We are trying out new language for these tricky new circumstances - Nick's place is variously called 'your apartment', 'Rotary Home' or 'your place'. Yesterday, I slipped and referred to our planned destination this weekend as a visit 'home'. I corrected myself and we all had a chat about why I don't want to use that word now. We need a new language for this new life and we are being very, very careful with 'home'. Because HOME is a loaded word and we don't quite know what it means yet.


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