"Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Insolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stories that cannot be deciphered."
Thomas Stearns Eliot 1888-1965 "Four Quartets. East Cober" 1940 stanza V
Last week my Memoir group had an assignment to write a piece titled "Can You Go Home?"
It was interesting to hear what people wrote and since then I've been giving a great deal of thought to this subject. I began to review all the 'homes' that I have lived in, considering which one I thought of as really 'home'. As I've moved around a great deal, it was a difficult choice.
My earliest memories of 'home' are from when I was five. We lived in a little railway town at the border of Alberta/Saskachewan called Lloyminster. During the early '60's when my husband and I moved to Alberta, when my Dad came to visit we drove to Lloyminster, the first time Dad and I had ever returned there. His old church was still there, as was the house next door where we lived. But everything seemed much smaller to me than what I'd remembered as a kid.
The next real 'home' I often think of was in Stratford Ontario when we lived at Grandpa's house during the war when my Dad was serving overseas as a chaplain in an army field hospital. Grandpa had bought that house when it was 100 years old and renovated it, and when Mom and my little sister and I moved in he'd made the upstairs into a private suite for us. I loved that old house and went back there in the early 60's for a visit. My little Grandma (Grandpa's second wife) was still living in the house and it was exactly as I remembered it. But I wonder if it's still standing. Doubtful, as it was already such an old house and I would think it has been torn down to make way for something modern.
After we moved from Stratford, we came here to the West Coast where my Dad was pastor of a church that happens to be in the district I live in now. We didn't live close to the church but our lovely old house is near enough that sometimes I go by there to take a look. It's still the same as it was then and I feel sure my parent's spirits are there. It was a two-story white frame house and I had a bedroom upstairs where I spent many hours at my desk typing stories on an old Underwood typewriter. I guess that is the house where my dreams of becoming a writer really took shape.
Later, when I was married, my family and I moved to Edmonton Alberta. Those days in our brand new house in suburbia have unhappy memories for me so I've only gone back once and haven't had a desire to return. In between then and now have been a couple of other houses, one was my dream home which I lost due to the tragedy of my husband's alcholism. The next was a marvelous old house known as "The Opium Palace" where I learned to survive on a shoe-string with my two kids and house full of free spirits who included my best friend Suzaki, a couple of American army deserters and several hippies. I have enough stories to write a book about that house as well as the infamous Hazel Street House where we lived for several years.
Next I moved to a wonderful old Victorian house which happened to be one of the first houses built in the city. During the late 60's and early 70's it had been known as "The Acid Kool-Aid House". By the time I moved in to the top floor it was due for demolition. I fixed it all up and it was by far one of the best places I've ever lived. I stayed there for a couple of years until I decided to move to Greece. After that the house was torn down to make way for a rather ugly condo.
In Greece, which is also my home, I shared a courtyard and lived in a basement suite on Odos Vironos (Byron's Street). I still pass by there every time I'm Athens, and stop to look through the gate into the courtyard. That home also is full of stories waiting to be told.
Besides the house on Vironos St., I had a little shepherd's cottage up on the mountain in Evvia in a tiny hamlet called Lala. This was my Garden of Eden, the place I dream about and astral-travel to. But since my shepherd died three years ago, some of the magic has left the village so it is painful to return. For sure, this year I found I couldn't go home to Lala. I wonder if I ever will again.
At the present time I'm living in an apartment in a building where I've lived (except for 1 year) since 1993. I've had various suites in the building and the one I have now is probably the best one. For that one year, when I chose to move to a larger apartment to share with a friend, I was so homesick for this building that as soon as I was able I came back here to live. So I guess you can say I did come 'home' and this is where I hope to stay for awhile.
My friend A. is home from the hospital now. It's a difficult adjustment for him but hopefully he will soon feel better about being home in his own apartment, with his family and friends around him. The wish is that he will recover enough to make a journey to Chile to see his family. He has lived here as an exile for many years and I know he longs to return home.
Home really is where your heart is.
"Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd
As home his footsepts he hath turn'd"
Sir Walter Scott 1771-1832 "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" V1, st1