Where is home?.. Seems such a simple question. But it has not always been for me.
When I graduated from high school and went away to study, the answer was clear. Home was back at my parents. My younger sister was living there, most of my friends were still in town. And, since it was only a two-hour journey by train, I visited at least every month. However, children are meant to grow up and make a home of their own. I suppose, mine ended up being a bit more fragmented than usual. I made new friends, new connections, settled in. Eventually even got married. Home was this new place that I was crafting for myself. Only the crafting did not last for long.
Eventually, I followed my husband to Ireland. Being abroad and away from the tiny spot in space that was mine, my ‘home’ suddenly expanded to encompass the entire country. I missed my family, my friends, but also the language, the culture, the sense of everything being familiar and easy. My husband was next to me, but my personal history and identity stayed behind in another country. Home was not just this person or that, but all the network of connections that I used to have, the being able to invite friends over for a long evening of heart-to-heart, the camping trips with my parents… And whenever I went back to Lithuania on my holiday, I did not only come back to the geographical location that was my homeland, but also this entire ‘personal ecosystem’ that was natural to me. For those couple of weeks, I used to have that strange feeling about Ireland like it was not real, as if I was finally back to actual reality.
I guess, there comes a time in a migrant’s life, when you are at home neither here, nor there. Your old world goes on without you. You go on without it. Even though you touch base as often as possible, it is not the same as being part of it. The new world.. Well, you do not naturalize overnight. I suppose, like a prosthetic limb, it needs a lot of use to become a part of you, to feel natural. And thus you end up being a little homeless for a while. It is not easy. Was not easy for me. But it is true what they say about things becoming worse before they get better. That, as it turned out, was a threshold to a new phase of being. And belonging. And the connections that survive it, emerge so much stronger and more reliable.
As time went by, I started noticing that not only did I enjoy going back to Lithuania on my holidays, but I also enjoyed returning to Ireland after them. I was somewhat surprised by that sensation the first time. But, I guess, it was inevitable. I was settling in. This was becoming my home too – a lived-in place with new connections and memories, emotional imprints in geographical spaces.
Years went by. We bought a little house. My daughter was born. All of the sudden, there was furniture to be bought, pictures to be hung, flowers to be planted in the walk-up to the front door. Our own home. When I read the daily prompt that kickstarted this blog post, the first thing to pop into my mind was this place exactly. With my husband and myself seated comfortably on the couch, open fire peacefully crackling away, our daughter deeply engrossed in her play close by, and the cat casually lying on the windowsill pretending not to watch us all. Home is the ordinary daily stuff we do together. But then my thoughts expanded to my wider family at home in Lithuania, to my close friends (that are like family) wherever in the world they are. So, in the end, I reckon, home is not a place at all, but rather a feeling. It is a feeling of belonging, a feeling that people know you. There is no need to explain yourself, to pretend. You have the freedom to BE. And so do the people around you.
Home is a feeling. And I am lucky to have little islands of that feeling in several geographical places.