Yesterday, when I would normally be at work in Canberra, I was in Perth visiting a real estate agent. I walked in, smiled, dropped an envelope on the desk, and left.
I went home to Perth, which is really not my home anymore, to pack up the house I grew up in. My parents are moving. I went to help pack up my childhood home, but also to bask in the company of those who know me best. We gathered around a new kitchen table in a new kitchen, surrounded by boxes and unable to find a salad bowl.
My brother drove me from the airport, and talked about his engineering degree as if I understood every bit of it. My sister and I made time to go to the beach and lay baking, comparing notes on coupledom. It reminded me how rarely I walk barefoot any more. My other sister gave me a birthday present four months late, but beautiful. She is the artistic one, and always manages to buy me the jewellery I would choose for myself. My mother and I schemed about future trips and Christmas presents. My father asked me if I was happy, and gleefully discussed his latest work project and mine.
You can’t share a house with that many people without friction, of course. But we demolished furniture, moved boxes and sorted belongings without too much angst. There were many teary moments, and many laughs as we remembered departed loved ones. Ghosts of fashion past also surfaced. It was a very full weekend.
I was the last to leave on Monday afternoon. By the time I handed over the keys of the old house, the new house was fairly empty too. My mother and her sister saw me off at the airport. Then, for the first time in four days, I was alone with my thoughts.
Where is home? The house is sold, and only my brother still lives with my parents. I live on the other side of the country, with a husband, a mortgage, a job – not to mention some beautiful, amazing friends. This place, with my books and my bed, is my home too.
There is no ocean here, no sea breeze, no white sand, no family picnics by the river. But there are mountains and cockatoos and creeks. There are dinners with friends and excursions into the bush. I’ll call my mother tonight, to let her know all is well, and to ask how her day was. My sisters will email to chide me about my food blog, and the lack of fresh recipes. I seem to be mastering the art of long distance relationships. And I wonder, after this trip, what has changed?
I’m no stranger to homesickness, but I often wonder if home is just a concept you take with you, a corner of your heart that will be forever somewhere else. As Christmas looms large without my family, I wonder whether I will be able to embrace the holiday, the same as always. Sometimes a Christmas away is better than a Christmas at home with people missing.
I wonder, next time I feel homesick, what it is I’ll be homesick for.