Last night we returned from our cruise spring break holiday. As we were making the last of three flights from Tampa to our town in Idaho, I reflected on going home. I realized that my image of home flickered. My construct of home it drifting between our house that died, our temporary home and our home to be. It is undefined.
I came to the realization that my construct of home was undefined when I thought to myself that I hated this part: the return from trips expecting to go home after being away and then not going home. The feeling of home and not going there was present although it too was muffled. Last night I had to stop and remember what I meant by “going home.” I had to stop and retrace in my mind each detail of the return home; a journey I made hundreds of times in the years we lived in our house that died. During the first 8 years we lived in that house I made 25 or more business trips per year so I came home a lot. Over the past 5 years we have traveled less than in the past but we still far more than most. All together I guess I must have gone home to that house from 250 trips.
Last night it was hard to call to memory the details of that process. I had a feeling of what it should have been but not what it had been. I found that disturbing but also know enough about memory and psychological perceptions to know that losing those details is not to be feared or seen as a betrayal. It is normal that I am losing my concept of home as it is attached to my now dead house.
While I am loosing my memory of details of my old house, I do not have enough experience with memories in this temporary home to have a concept of home here. In some ways I intentionally do not let myself think of this temporary house as home. For a long time I refused to call it home. I steadfastly avoided saying things like, “Phew, what a long day at work. I am glad we can go home now.” Rather, I say, “I am glad we can go to the house now.” “The house” and “the home” are two different things. This temporary house is not home. After 8 months the house is more than a house but less than a home. I don’t want to be here long enough for it to be more than a house. I don’t it want it to be home.
My concept of home is now in three places. It resides with our house that died in the fire, it resides with the temporary house where we are living and it resides in our house-in-the-making. Between the three, there is not enough continuity to have a reliable concept of home.
Perhaps it is good not to have a stable construct for home. If I had one that was stable, and I am split between three residences–our deceased house, our temporary house and our house-to-be, I could be inordinately confused. On the other hand, not having a stable construct of home makes it hard not to feel cut adrift between our three residences.
Perhaps feeling cut adrift between our three residences underlies our growing intolerance for not being in our house-to-be. It is easy to imagine that when we “get our house back” life will immediately fall back into old patterns and we won’t notice any change from our old, pre-fire life.
I am sure that there will be things about the new house which will put us in the mind of our pre-fire life. We will be comforted and drawn into continuity by the approach to the house from the road. The driveway will be the same. The garage will be nearly the same. The gardens by the driveway will be the same. The sameness stops there for a bit but picks back up on the next floor. The living room and dining rooms are the same, slightly altered in proportion one to the other. A picture window replaces a sliding glass door. A fireplace replaces a picture window but is flanked by two windows so the view is still there.The family room is located where the den/bedroom was in the old house.The kitchen is on the opposite side of the house but in the same general location as the old.
The physical layout of the kitchen is as identical as we could make it. We loved our old kitchen humble as it was. It was compact and two people working at once needed to be close friends because of the number of required bottom bumps as you passed by each other but it was a very efficient kitchen. The old kitchen had two walls and a short wall before opening into the dining area. The new kitchen will have two walls and a somewhat longer, short wall before it opens up. The cabinets are the same. The glasses can go right into their cabinet by the sink over the dishwasher. The mugs can go in the cabinet right over the bit of counter that houses the coffee pot. The spoons can be in the drawer that is closest to the table and the vegetables coming out of the frig can still find an 5 point landing on the corner of the island within easy reach of the sink. The compost pail will be in the same place. The pots will still hang over the island and the mixing bowls will still be stacked in a cabinet below the surface of the island.
Upstairs our bedroom is in the same location with the same view although our bed is rotated 90 degrees and rather than having one tiny master bath and a shared moderate sized closet we will have his and hers master bathrooms and closets. Of course, each of our bathrooms are shared with another bedroom so if the house were full, we would have to share with each other which is just fine by us.
The office is exactly, precisely, perfectly in the same location as it was. The entire house was re-organized around that one room. The original design for our dwelling reconstruction logically called for the office in a different location. When we realized the implications of not having our office where it had been we contorted the entire plan to make it fit. Finally we scrapped some of the original plan. I think a lot of it was scrapped because of the office. The office is the same. The only difference between the old office and the new is that our 3 1/2 foot knee walls are now low ceilings at 7 1/2 feet. After so many years with the 3 1/2 foot walls I had learned to duck my head around the roof beam that loomed close to my desk. We had generally learned that when you took things out of the cabinets under the knee wall you were supposed to walk forward hunched over and then stand up rather than stand up and then walk forward. A few misses a year were not such a big thing. The whack on the forehead was low-impact since you could not work up much speed between the cabinet and the beam. I have a feeling that we will adapt very quickly to the adjusted ceiling height and the room will be just like what we had.
Therein lies the beacon for home. We liked what we had. We cannot do away with our love of a 300 year old hand carved train or a hand written manuscript from 1480. When the time comes, our construct of home that is drifting will replaced by being home in our house-to-be. Our construct of home will no longer be undefined. It will be defined.