The Joy of Home
There’s magic about returning home. It's like catching up with an old friend who knows us inside and out.
I step off the boat. I feel the wind lift my hair and can taste the salt spray in the air. I look around at the familiar buildings. The unchanging shoreline and row of tourist shops selling plastic buckets and spades. I inhale deeply and then, as I exhale slowly, I start walking. It’s as I make my way down the pier, lugging my suitcase and handbag behind me, that the transformation happens.
It’s the same every time. It’s almost indescribable, although I’m sure the Norwegians would have a word for it; I feel my whole body relax as though my muscles and bones are breathing a sigh of relief. Whatever stress or anxiety I’ve been carrying around with me is blown away on the breeze and suddenly I feel positively teenage again. The world is rife with luxurious possibilities, and yet, there’s only one place I want to see. Home.
Going home, which coincidentally is the Isle of Wight for me, is always something of a pilgrimage. My solitary train journey. The habitual seat I take on the boat. The symbolic walk down the pier as I cross over the sea and plant my feet shore side. My hometown coming into view and growing before my eyes, like a vision in a dream - until it’s finally there in front of me and I’m breathing in the sights and sounds that my mind tries to recreate.
There’s magic about returning home. So many of us live away from our childhood towns or villages, I often find myself nostalgic for a time when families never strayed further than a few miles down the road. With hours and miles (and several modes of transport) between my present ‘home’ and my hometown, the act of returning home is, for me, at least, always one that’s emotionally cleansing.
I liken it to catching up with an old friend who knows me inside and out. One who can tell me what I’m doing right or wrong and can whip me back into shape. At home, I can check in with myself. Revisit my old haunts and take stock of who I was, where I am now, and the parts of me that often go neglected.
I heart home
Much is made of ‘home’ being where the heart is and I have to agree. The resonance that home has upon me is rooted in the fact I grew up on the shores and streets of the Isle of Wight and have left a piece of my heart there. The intensity of feeling that I have on going home is incomparable to any other experience. Even my own home where I live with my husband and children, the one I have filled with my favourite things and where I create new memories every day, doesn’t give me the same sensation as walking through the threshold of my childhood house.
I head to my old bedroom first. It’s now void of all the trinkets, dresses and clutter that my girlhood self filled it with, but the air is still rich with the thoughts, dreams and dramas of my former life. All my secrets still kept safe.
I love to take it all in. The contours of the room, the perennial sound of the birds nesting in the gutter above my window and the smell of the coastal air breathing at the curtains. The wardrobe inscribed with a tribute from a former boyfriend. It’s all so familiar. And all so cherished.
Where time stands still
For me, going home is perhaps all the more sacred because my adult life is so busy. Having the chance to reflect, remember and forget various parts of my life – past and present – is wonderfully therapeutic.
Life is always moving on and things are in an eternal state of change, yet going ‘home’ often makes us feel like we’re time travelling. It seems time has stood still; all those rooms, roads, places, faces and landscapes remain, waiting to be re-seen by us, at different stages of our lives.
For me, going home definitely serves as a reminder that I’m growing older. That I’m on life’s inevitable circular path. It gives me the opportunity say hello to the me of yesterday and anticipate my future self too. It’s deeply introspective. And I always leave feeling more ‘me’ than when I arrived.
Bring it home
Returning ‘home’ – to where I grew up is inevitably different to returning home where I live. Each has different charms and benefits, but the two really cannot be compared. Instead I try to bring reminders of my childhood home into my house, perhaps to bridge the gap between now and then. Here and there.
My London living room shelves are filled with photographs taken at the seaside, the turquoise of the Solent, a consistent background for summer memories and holidays ‘back home’. I have pieces of ‘home’ littered about my house; pictures bought at vintage sales, family heirlooms, my grandmother’s crystal vase. Accessories made by local artisans that add an out of place coastal reference in my urban-dwelling.
I notice similar elements in the homes of my friends. A painting of a Cornish landscape or a Welsh market town. A sculpture by a regional artist. Pieces of places that can’t quite conjure the spell of the real thing. Nonetheless these elements of home are important features in my house. They help me to stay rooted to the place I grew up in and remind me that as soon as I’m able to, I must return once again.
By Ursula Brunetti