Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "What is Home?"
On 27th May, 2005 I sat on the bare floor of my house in Cardiff, Wales, UK and I cried. My possessions were on their way to Sicily, my precious dog was in boarding kennels at Gatwick Airport, London and I was remembering the last time I had seen the house empty, 21 years before.
I had not always been happy in that house - indeed, it held as many sad memories as pleasant ones for me - but it had been my refuge from the world for a long time and now, with only the echo of my own footsteps and sobs where once there had been friends' laughter, the sound of dogs barking and my mother's beloved voice, I felt as if my heart would break.
Yet it had been my choice to go and I was about to do something I had been dreaming of for 36 years, for I was moving to Italy. So what was it that made that little house so hard to leave for the last time? What was it that had made me call it "home"?
What I realised with a shock on that day was that, for a while, I would no longer have a home and that revelation made me feel strangely lost in the world. Home, then, was not just the place I came back to at the end of the day or the trip, but it somehow fixed me somewhere on this vast earth. I opened and locked my own doors, I received utility bills, I "belonged" to a street, a community, a town. Now, by a stroke of a pen, all that was gone and I had no "space" of my own.
In Watching the English the anthroplogist Kate Fox writes that the British "sport" of hating estate agents [realtors] stems from our obsession with the carefully demarcated little spaces in which we live: to sell our home is to invite an intrusion into that space - in other words, an invasion of our haven, the place where we can look and do as we like - and to agree to have judgement passed upon it. And I had hated the estate agents' visits, the uncaring marches of others across my "little plot of land" so much that I had nearly given up the whole project. So we can be fiercely protective of our "home", even when preparing to leave it.
My garden in Cardiff had long become too much for me and even before I reached that point, I liked to look at it but had never wanted to do the work involved in keeping it even marginally tidy! But I had shed tears for my garden ornaments, too. They had been part of my life and I had "talked" to my stone animals and people every day. Some of them were given to good, new "homes" but others have made a happy transition to my balcony in Sicily and I greeted them again as I unpacked them here:
When Simi the dog and I first arrived in Sicily we lived, for a while, in a tiny, traditional house belonging to a kind friend. It was comfortable and cool for us during the first months of that summer of 2005 and, with its magnificent Sicilian locks, we felt safe there:
But it wasn't "home". No mail came addressed to me there and, although my neighbours were pleasant enough, they knew that we weren't going to stay so we did not become part of their community. The house didn't contain our things but, more importantly, it didn't contain our memories. We lived there but we didn't "live our lives" there, as we did in Cardiff and as we do now in our flat. Home is a place for making memories.
|Simi and me at home in Sicily|
Here is a list of other blogs which are participating in this week's "Blog Off" theme: