What is home?

It hit me when the plane was beginning its descent into Vancouver. The dark, coniferous backside of the mountains, like prickly beasts dipping their large heads to drink from the ocean, seemed to pierce my heart with a longing I didn’t even know I had. The landscape was so familiar, so part of me. It cleared my head of all other thoughts, swept them out of the way, to make room for that grand, ambiguous concept: home.

Now, if you ever read this blog, you will know that I have been known to diss Victoria. I am not a fan. I have not friended it. To be honest, I was dreading this visit. Not because I don’t love all the people, the hordes of family and friends that live there, but because I knew it was going to be two weeks of intense visiting, of dealing with other people’s schedules, of putting our lives on hold.

And I am not that social. And it was less expensive to go to Portugal.

But I hadn’t been back since that last blog post 2 and a half years ago, and my mother and sister recently moved back and my husband’s family was all there and we hadn’t had a Christmas with them since we left, so it was time. So I sucked it up, stopped grumbling about it and worked on my breathing techniques. I was going to get through it by remembering that I actually loved these people; that I wanted to see them.

What I wasn’t expecting was to feel so strongly about it being home. Because when I was growing up I never felt that way. It wasn’t until we arrived in Montreal that I felt we were in a place we really belonged. But this is different. this is a place that is so familiar to me I can walk the streets and feel like I know ever crack in the sidewalk. I have history here. I have family and friends here. I have children who were born around the same time as mine, who I have known since birth and love like they were family here, and in the past two years they have gone from children to teenagers. They are these people that I have to get to know again, and it is bittersweet for me. In fact, I have been on the verge of tears more than once on this visit.

My husband’s parents moved out of their house of 35 years and are now living with their daughter. Their old house, the one I have known since I was a teenager; the one where I lived for a time when my husband and I first got together, where a whole bunch of artists had their studios and where we would sit around every Sunday talking about art and philosophy, where some fabulous moments were had, has now been completely gutted. You walk by and you can see right through it. It is now just a skeleton, bare bones without any meaning.

Emotional. That’s how I feel. It is a new unpleasant sensation and I wish it would stop.

But I should have known. In Montreal, the thing that defines me, the one thing that I use to explain my crazy ways, is that I am from the Westcoast. I am from Victoria. I say it without thinking about it, as if it is just another fact about me: I have dark hair; I am short; I am from Victoria.

But it wasn’t until this visit that the truth of this hit home.

Victoria is home.

Damn.

Note to all family and friends: this does not mean we are moving back, so don’t even ask.

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6 Responses to What is home?

  1. carrie says:

    The hatred and disgust that you have so often used to describe Victoria used to completely confuse me (why would anyone live, as an adult, in a city they held nothing but contempt for, for so long?), but maybe it's a little less confusing to me now. Okay, just a very very little bit less confusing to me, because everything you've just described makes me homesick for a home like what you have described, which I have never had.

    “Home” is such a horribly complicated notion. Especially when you throw in that other ridiculously complicated notion: “christmas”.

  2. Two things:

    1.Yes, I am short. You know that because you are not so tall and yet you hover over me. I am okay with it. I embrace the shortness.

    2. Hatred and disgust? Whoah there cowgirl. Thems are big words.Irritation at the overzealous bylaw making process maybe. Impatience with the self-righteous, holier-than-the-thou attitudes of the pseudo-hippies, or the pomposity of the octogenarian British ex-patriots, definitely. And I take issue with their public art and the process by which they choose it. But hatred and disgust? No. I am sorry I have given that impression.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. carrie says:

    Maybe “sneering disdain” would have been more apt than 'hatred & disgust'. However, most conversations about Victoria were wine & beer fuelled, so there's that.

  5. Julian says:

    1. I can totally relate.
    2. The Chapman house gutted is a terrible and haunting image.
    3. Next year: Portugal!

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