Adventures in Going Home (I)

I went home in August.

Well, I thought I did, but when I sat down to tell you all about it, I realized I might not have gone home at all.

Believe me, that revelation came as quite a shock – especially since I know I didn’t imagine the gazillion hours on the plane, or the bored-looking customs officer in Toronto glancing at my passport and saying, “Welcome Home.”

I didn’t imagine walking out into the arrivals hall at the airport, and it certainly looked like home: all the signs were in English and French; middle aged women were milling about wearing pastel coloured capris, showing just a bit of tannless ankle above their running shoes; I could eavesdrop on any conversation I wanted, because almost everyone was speaking English.

When my wonderful cousin Karen met me for lunch during my layover, she took me to a restaurant that had more than one variety of poutine on the menu…and I didn’t have to serve myself drinking water out of a bucket…and when I used the restroom, I didn’t have to take my own toilet paper with me, because it was included!! For free!!

I was definitely in Canada – and gloriously happy to be there. I was excited to be spending the month at home. The problem was, I’d been tossing that word around all willy-nilly, and using it with reckless abandon without taking time to consider what it really meant.

The next four weeks passed in an utterly delightful whirlwind of beloved family and friends as I drove, flew, bused and ferried my way across Canada. I ordered a medium double-double at every Tim Horton’s I came across…not because I wanted one, but because I could. In a moment of wild abandon, I tried to hug the cheese aisle at the grocery store, but my arms weren’t long enough. The cheese aisle returned my affection by delivering this delicious 3-in-1 cheese, which was perfect, because I couldn’t decide which kind to buy:

Thank you, cheese aisle.

Thank you, cheese aisle.

In short, I had a wonderful time. I was thrilled to be in Canada…and judging by this heartfelt welcome in the prairie sky, Canada was happy to see me too:

I love you too, Canada.

I love you too, Canada.

In fact, I had such a good time, it wasn’t until I was <ahem> back home again in Chiang Mai that I realized something:

In the entire month I spent in Canada, I never once set foot in a place I’d ever lived before. I never saw a school I used to attend, or a yard I’d built snow-forts in. I didn’t drive down a familiar road, or visit an old hang-out. I didn’t bump into an old classmate at the mall, or wave to a former neighbour.

That left me wondering, did I actually go home?

Some people stick to the old adage, Home is Where the Heart Is. (C’mon, admit it. You totally pictured that embroidered on lacy pillow when you read it, didn’t you? …right?) Some people, myself included, prefer the more practical, Home is Where Most of my Underpants Are. (Now picture that  embroidered on a pillow! You’re welcome.)

It’s a wonderful blessing to have so many people and places around the world that make me feel like I’m at home…I’m certainly not complaining! But the next time someone asks me, “Where’s home for you?” I think I’ll just change the subject, and ask about their favourite type of cheese.

Where’s home for you? And why?

8 thoughts on “Adventures in Going Home (I)

  1. That’s what happens when you spend a significant amount of time in a culture other than the culture of your birth, your definition of “home” changes.

    And actually it isn’t so much your definition of home that changes, it’s your definition of yourself. It becomes normal to be the “other”, the outsider, the gringo, gaijin, or whatever the designation for foreigners is in the culture where you find yourself. And when you come back to what you thought was home, you find that you have changed so much that you have permanently become the other, here, there and everywhere.

    So home becomes the hearth stone of your family. That might be your parents’ house, or your own house, if you have children, or your grandparents’ house – truly the place where your heart is. And the rest of the wide world becomes the enchanted forest, where you never take anything for granted, and when you find warmth and acceptance, it is that gift that is all the more wonderful because you really didn’t expect, not precisely there, at precisely that time…

    • Thanks, Owen. =)

      Since everyone in our family has moved recently, to unfamiliar hearths, I think what I noticed this time is the pleasure found in traditions and unique or quirky rituals we carry with us as a family, no matter what kitchen we’re in. It’s nice.

  2. Although the wreath at our front door says “Home is where the military sends us”, my definition of “home” is not a physical place, but being in the presence of friends and family, where I feel completely loved and accepted. Once, while catching up with a friend we hadn’t seen in several years, “home” was drinking a hot chocolate in the magazine section of Chapters, feeling as if we’d just seen her the previous day.

    • I agree. Looking through my photos, I had “Ah, I’m home” moments when we did things like make poppyseed cake or nuts’n’bolts. The things that we do together wherever we are. =)

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