In Body and Soul, I’m Always Going Home

Our House (2011 - neither of those cars exist now)

Our House (2011 – neither of those cars exist now)

I am a lucky one. After a recent trip to visit my family in Saskatchewan, I have realized that whether going or coming, whether travelling from Vancouver to the prairie or from the prairie to Vancouver, I am always returning home.

It works like this: I leave the apartment I share with TC, which is home, and get on a plane. My parents pick me up from the airport and take me to the house I grew up in, also known as home. I sleep in my tiny bed in my tiny bedroom and revel in the delicious feeling of being home. At the end of my visit, I wistfully bid my home good-bye and get back on a plane. Several hours later, I reach the door of my home. I sleep in our modest bed in our modest loft and revel in the delicious feeling of being home.

Pretty great, huh?

If they wanted to, I suppose a pedant or a killjoy could point out that I can’t possibly always be going home, especially since one home requires me to have brought a suitcase and one has all my clothes and toiletries in it already. Or, to look at it another way, since one home saw more than 20 years of my life, and the other has been occupied by me for less than two. Perhaps in practice (rather than poetic fancy), my only actual home is in Vancouver, by virtue of my clothes being there, or maybe my only real home is in Saskatchewan, by virtue of the many years I spent there. These observations are valid, but contradictory, and forcing my homes to compete against one another for legitimacy fails to recognize the unique value each home has for me.

Sure, my Vancouver home contains all my stuff (or all the stuff I currently use, at least), but my Saskatchewan home contains all my memories. Sure, my Saskatchewan home sheltered me for more than twenty years, but it is my home with TC (wherever that may be) that will shelter me in my future. If home is where the heart is, and I love both the family I have with my parents and sisters and also my TC (and the potential for a new family that he represents), it is clear my heart is required to be in two places. And it must therefore have two homes.

I realized after completing my BFA that I would likely not be moving back to Saskatchewan. My university friends and colleagues were here in BC, my (mostly imagined) future in the theatre was here, and having never lived or worked in an urban centre in Saskatchewan (where I would likely need to live/work were I to ever return), there were many day-to-day realities of life in a prairie city I would neither recognize nor enjoy. A future in Saskatchewan was, for me, impractical. My future was in BC, and my future home was here also.

But if you want to know where the home of my soul is, where I go to recharge and re-ground myself, I will tell you that it is a brown house in a big yard on the prairie, surrounded by forests and fields and neighbours who’ve known me all my life. I’m an admittedly nostalgic person, but this isn’t just nostalgia, per se, it’s a knowing, deep in my bones, that a certain place belongs to me and I belong to it.

I suspect my sisters feel the same way, which is why we are so aghast whenever my parents renovate the house (designed and built by my dad in the mid-80s). Logically, I understand that 25-year-old carpet should probably be replaced, and I suppose I can’t mind too much when my unused bedroom is re-purposed by my parents for storage and by a particular lazy cat as his favourite place to sleep. I can’t expect my childhood home to remain suspended in time; the house is, after all, a currently occupied (and therefore ever-changing)  place of life and work for my parents, not a museum dedicated to indulging the wistful nostalgia of their children. Sometimes I wonder if my fierce attachments to my recollections of home are somewhat unfair to the actual physical structure, which must bend to reality rather than exist in memory. It’s a lot to ask of a house that it remain the same in every aspect, even as time and weather (and pets) leave their mark on the place, necessitating shocking changes every once in a while, like new shingles and (gasp!) new carpet. I suppose it’s unfair to my parents as well, who have to listen to my griping every time they dare to change their house to suit their needs–the house, after all, that they built and paid for and still live in as their daughters pursue their dreams across the world.

I think my parents should take our attachment to the house and our desire not to see anything changed as a compliment–I imagine when the house was built my parents were hoping to create a home for their family and they succeeded. The truth is, if we had not been so happy we probably wouldn’t care so much. Our home is the stage for our family mythology, a mythology preserved in photographs, Lego sets, favourite old VHS tapes, anecdotes and stories, and yes, in the house itself. Sad as I am to see one home change, I am thrilled by the idea of trying to create such a home and such a happy mythology for my future kids. Isn’t that a wonderful challenge?