Over the years, I have often wondered, and learned about what and where is home? It is an answer that has continued to evolve for me. As many know, this last year I have been back in my hometown connecting back to my Regina, Saskatchewan Roots. This year (paired with COVID-19) has yielded some fitting lessons on my understandings of “home” which I feel are worth sharing.
Phase One: Home is a Place
Where and what is home? This is a question I have asked myself from a young age. Growing up my parents made the realization it would be best if they were separated and decided to get a divorce. Given the social norms of the 90’s, expectations for a nuclear family, and a Luthern (paternal) mixed with Catholic (maternal) upbringing, this decision was not an easy one to be made- despite it being for our families best interest. As a child, this meant I ended up having two places I would live: there was life with Mom and life with Dad. Both were very different but it gave me exposure to see and experience there are different ways to live. I thought it was cool to have x2 bedrooms plus I ended up knowing both cities of Regina and Saskatoon.
This taught me there is more than one ‘right’ way to do things and with every switch from Mom to Dad and Dad to Mom I began making the choices on what I needed versus wanted. I became very good at packing my bag and knowing what I wanted to do, and what I needed to do it. With obvious parental help from both sides, I believed I grew up in a very comfortable life with roof over head, food on the table, new clothes, lots of toys, and a public library card with access of endless books to read.
After years of living back and forth with increasing time spent at my Mom’s, at 15 my Dad made the choice to move without telling us. My Mom found out from friends who lived nearby that there was a sold sign on the house and I can imagine it was a deer in the headlights moment for her. I found out at the kitchen table when Mom was the one who told me my Dad had moved. We didn’t know where to. We didn’t know when. Deep down we both knew he was likely not coming back.
It felt like it had been a long time coming, but it was the first time I had a feeling of loss where one of my homes was taken away. My 15-year old brain saw it as, now you’re like normal, you have only one home. Also, I wonder when I’ll see him next? The last thought was one that I was used to. Until writing this now, I don’t think I realized it was along the literal lines of there likely isn’t a next time.
My ignorant 15 year old self lacked the compassion to realize this was probably the real day my Mom truly lost her husband and felt the full weight of catholic guilt and the unfair label of “divorced-single-Mom.” Had I understood this, I probably would have been less of a teenager and hopefully more kind to my Mom. It’s taken me a long time to see the stigma of the above because to me she has always been my loving, work hard, and kind Mom or Auntie Sandy. I didn’t realize not everyone treated her or saw her this way too.
For some reason, loss is a taboo thing to discuss and a difficult thing to process. Like grieving, loss doesn’t offer a physical wound that needs healing, it’s more of a personal pit, that eventually is replaced with love and kindness in the new life and joys that come over time. Despite feeling loss or grief, life continued moving forward around me and eventually I found I was pushed forward in the motions of school, dancing, and working. I still believe as an adult there is some work for me to do with a loss like this, but for this post, the loss of home and a house option I had taken for granted is the emphasis. Despite this gentle first loss of a “house” or “home” I was very safe in that I had so many other welcoming environments and places that still felt like home.
Phase Two: Home is a Feeling
In reflection, there were many places that have felt like home to me.
The dance studio, the family farm, Mom’s house, Dad’s place, Grandma’s house, a volleyball court, a work-place, at the cabin, driving in my own car, at the lake, and the track to name a few.
What does home feel like? A judgement free place, where I am welcome as I am. Where I can be my authentic self. In sweats, no make-up, and free. Feel relaxed, comfort, safe. A place I can wear my retainers without worry of who may see them. Growing up I have for the most part had a place where I feel at home available to me on the daily. Without a conscious awareness, for a long time home has been a feeling for me.
Phase Three: Learning the difference of House-Less Vs. Home-Less
When I moved to Vancouver Island, it was the first time I was truly on my own and experienced the feeling of being house-less. Yes, I had found a rental where I would live, but I had a longing to make the space feel like home. In that moment, I never considered myself homeless because I had a roof over my head, yet I found it strange I desired a place that felt like home. This lead me to wonder, what would make this place feel like home?
It took having a horror story rental that left me unexpectedly house-less over Thanksgiving weekend and x2 years of settling for an okay rental where I realized the difference between houseless and homeless. Also HUGE thanks to my training partner Casey who insisted she put a roof over my head that weekend despite the fact her and her family were hosting an already busy Thanksgiving weekend with extended friends and family.
House-less: When I do not have a reliable nor tangible roof over my head.
Home-less: When I do not feel comfortable in the space I am in.
Eventually I found my home on Treetop Heights and for two years lived in my suite that for the first time genuinely felt like home for me while living on Vancouver Island. My Treetop Home met the feeling described in Phase 2 and was also a tangible space that was uniquely mine and a reliable safe place. I could go on about why I loved this place but the main reason was I felt at home here.
Phase Four: Home is a Person
The summer my best friend Darah was getting married she had a great conversation and exert in her wedding speech where she explained what home was for her. Having also grown up in Saskatchewan she experienced a big move to Waterloo, Ontario to attend school and become an Optometrist. After four years of school she was faced with the choice of where she would want to be a practicing optometrist? In Saskatchewan where her family was or in Ontario where her soon-to-be husband, Dave would be? Where would home be? Through that decision process, the one must-have in home, was that she would end up wherever her and Dave could both successfully thrive. For her, home had become a person rather than a place. It didn’t matter which city she would be in, home would forever be marked by where they would be together.
Of course her family home in Saskatchewan is also a place of home as this is where her family is based, but home still remains defined by the people she shares a space with. This makes sense to me and I agree with this version of home, because anytime I visit her at any place in the world, I feel that feeling of home with her and Dave as one of my best friends.