I grew up next to the Atlantic Ocean. Its profoundly salty tone and scent suffuses all aspects of life within and nearby with an overarching awareness of the primordial melting pot that connects all of us.
For me, this picture from photographer Vincenzo Mazza activated a strong sense of home, which is unusual as I’ve never felt much homesickness. I left “home” at a very young age and have spent the vast majority of my life in many other places. Home became more about my life’s people than about a place. But the ocean has a way of imbuing your blood, I think.
I have visited Iceland a number of times, and its ocean geography does remind me of “home.”
The Okanagan Valley is quite famous for wine grapes, but for many years before that it was well-known for its fruits and vegetables, especially its tree fruits.
I am not usually a big lover of fruit, but there’s nothing quite like a fresh peach, warm from the sun, gently sweet and juicy, slightly tangy but not acidic. And that heavenly peachy perfume! Such a treat!
So as I sit on the equivalent of a massive glacier, I can always dream sweet summer memories of peaches. Mummm, I can almost taste one.
Is it being in the same place with your significant other?
Or is it a state of mind?
Do you have to leave it in order to recognise it? To know that it’s home and it’s where you belong?
I left “home” many years ago. So many places have now been “home” that I don’t really think of it any more as a place.
You can’t go home again. That is the title of a novel by Thomas Wolfe. In it, the idea of home is explored, but there are no definitive answers.
Once you leave home, does home become a construct? Is it an illusion? A sentiment? If what you experienced as home still exists, is it the same? Or was it ever what you thought it was?
I think of home as a place in my head. I don’t always recognise it, but I know it when I feel it. The land where I now spend my working life is a type of home, but I also know that it isn’t home.
Some people can’t wait to get back home. They will only leave it temporarily, if they do at all.
I couldn’t wait to leave home. I wanted nothing to do with it and got as far away from it as I could, both physically and emotionally. I had to find my own concept of home, and did so by exploring the homes of many others. I travelled a lot, both throughout Canada and the world.
And what I found was that the idea of home held a great number of commonalities across ethnicities, countries, religions and regions. It was often about a familiar group of people doing familiar things in an environment that, for the most part, held few surprises, even if there was a war going on. In fact, the notion of emphasising their familiarities was even more pronounced if there WAS a war going on.
So, maybe home is about expectations. We expect certain people to be doing certain things in certain ways in a certain environment. When all about us moves and changes, this idea of home provides a great deal of – well – certainty.
I once took a course that taught that expectations are inherently disappointing. That if you expect something, and then don’t get it as so often happens, you are causing a lot of trouble for yourself.
Maybe that’s why you can’t go home again. Expectations are never what they are in your head.
Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts about home?
So it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow and all you procrastinators and excuse-ridden forgetful people who are too lazy to get out of their own way better rush out and get a card, some flowers – even if you have to steal them from someone else’s yard – and then make your lunch reservations.
Probably too late for that now!
Now what are you to do? Standing there with a card that used to say “Happy Birthday” and to which you’ve applied a liberal amount of Wite-Out while your stolen flowers droop for lack of water and and your face resembles that of a robber’s horse?
Hah! I guess you’re just going to have to make the best of it and do what we used to do years ago before the commercialization of everything under the sun, including Hang-Nail Day. Ohhh, wait a minute. I think they forgot that one.
Here’s what we used to do – and I would do now if I still had my mom:
1. Make a card. When we were kids we used to make these really goofy-looking cards that were supposed to be endearing during the Friday afternoon art class before Mother’s Day Sunday. After my mom passed away, I discovered that she had kept a whole stack of these from me and my siblings. It’s not hard to go find a craft store, get a few simple supplies and make something that’s much better than you can buy.
2. Grow some flowers. Kidding. Actually, I did do this a couple of times when I was a child but I got the idea back in February. However. If your mom is into flowers or gardening, you could buy a plant that will bloom later in the season. In this hemisphere, our greenhouses are all just getting going and there’s lots of choice. There might even be plants available that have some blooms on them already. And don’t buy those tacky ones that they sell in the grocery store.
3. Make lunch. Or dinner. OH. MY. GOD. Make dinner? But I burn water, you scream silently to yourself. Don’t stress. If necessary, you can always buy something ready-made and just heat it up. Remember, the whole idea is for your mom to have a day off. And be sure to do all the clean-up. She’ll probably appreciate that more than anything else.
4. Last but not least. If all else fails, go to your mom’s place and do her cleaning or her yard work or her laundry for her. I don’t think that there could be a better present.
Happy Mother’s Day, moms, stepmoms, and all you people who have endeavoured to raise us and give us a good life!
There once was a horrible woman who treated her biological daughters better than her step-daughter. In fact, she treated her step-daughter like the most lowly of servants. Then a rich guy fell in love with the servant girl, married her and took her away from her bad situation. The end.
Sound familiar? Other than the fact that this silly story suggests that marriage is the answer to a woman’s dreams, it has historically been the bane of every stepmother in at least the last 200 years.
The wicked stepmother. By now it has become an archetype. I’m not sure what its origins are but it certainly has had staying power. It encapsulates the notion that if children are not your own, that you can’t love them, and worse, that you actually hate them and will carry out that hatred in nefarious and crushing ways.
What an image for women to have to cope with! Not only do they have to deal with a ready-made family but they also have to overcome these ridiculous fairy stories.
Most stepmothers try to do their best. I know, because I used to be one. It’s difficult, demanding, and requires the sensitivity of a professional diplomat. And there are few rewards for getting it right, but lots of condemnation for getting it wrong.
Yes, lots of step-parents are crap. But lots of biological parents are crap, too.
Mother’s Day is coming. Its popularity did not come out of the idea of honouring one’s mother. That came out of war. Out of the heartbreaking losses of sons that women had to endure because a government decided to send them to die. And there were lots of stepmothers among them.
Hallmark and other companies have commercialized and capitalized on Mother’s Day and it has become a colossal money-maker for florists and restaurants and the makers of cards. Its founder, American Anna Jarvis, was disappointed by this. It has been turned into flowers and hearts but that’s not really what it was supposed to be about.
It’s supposed to be about work. Hard work. And love and tears and worry and sleeplessness. And lots of people, not just mothers, have done that for us.
So, this Sunday, we should perhaps honour the fight that our mothers, stepmothers and others have carried out for us. For many of us, it was the struggle that saved us, not the flowers.
As I write this my partner, M, is busy in the kitchen making muffins. He is using an old recipe book, one of those great little gems that isn’t at all fancy but completely useful and built around the notion of good nutritious food that is also meant to be comforting and filling.
Old fashioned concepts, perhaps. For many of us, living our lives of plenty, we worry about comfort foods that fill us up. At best, they are starting to become guilty treats and at worst, calorie bombs to be decried and banned.
Sadly, they have lost their position as foods to be honoured and enjoyed after a long day of hard work.
I have good memories of such foods. Walking home from school on a cold rainy day to the yeasty, thick warmth of my mother’s kitchen as she pulled new bread from the oven. My cheeks warming up as sitting on the yellow stool, she served a thick slice, butter melting into the white softness.
We talked softly, too. About school. About my plans. About my friends’ plans. Dreaming about life to the accompaniment of pure edible bliss.
Much was discussed in that kitchen with the yellow stool while a drift of gratifying comfort foods was being prepared and consumed.