Margaret Blackwood writes about home, the passage of time and whether it is the people or place that provide sense of belonging.
Yesterday, on the eve of my son’s 13th birthday, I reached out to close his bedroom window. His room used to be mine when I was a child and overlooks a Japanese plum tree that has been there ever since I can remember. Robins were singing in the tree. As I stood there, my arms gooseflesh with the cold, I experienced a sudden clarity – a kind of epiphany.
It was as if I was a child again, transported back to the same home, to another evening some 40 years earlier. The same birds – or rather the birds’ predecessors were singing – and the same cool air was ruffling my shirtsleeves. For a moment my parents were alive again, and I was a child standing in my old room, a bedroom painted pink. Pink for a little girl who was surely and mightily loved.
How is it possible to be homesick when you live in your old family home? What is homesickness anyway, a heightened awareness of the passage of time? I still feel nostalgic when I see chalk doodles on the sidewalk, a paddle pool, a hammock strung between two trees.
When I was twelve, I spent two weeks at summer camp. I remember missing my mother and being in tears on the last night. A group of us were sleeping under the stars, and as I listened to the other girls’ cheery voices, their giggling and laughing, my sadness intensified and I felt wholly and utterly alone. Outside in the cold night air, unsheltered on the beach, I remember taking some comfort as I stared bleary eyed up at the stars knowing that my mother was outside at home watering the garden and looking up at the same sky.
While I always felt a particular kind of sadness when I was out of town or away from my parents, I also couldn’t wait to grow up.
“What do you think we’re running here, a hotel?” My father would shout when I was 16 and came running home for a quick shower, a change of clothes and a bite of dinner, before heading out again.
Today I’m head cook and concierge, and officially the mother of a pair of teenagers. My daughter is mulling over her academic options and my son is planning to take me on a road trip in a few years, when he gets his driver’s license. We’re entering new phases of our lives.
I look back wistfully at the days my little ones could both fit into a shopping cart, when they used to peek out at the world from their double stroller, but I’m also looking forward to the future. All things willing, the best is yet to come.
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