Having spent 14 days in self-isolation following my escape from Italy, the idea of home has preoccupied me as I am sure it has for many others in the current COVID-19 environment of social distancing.
As most of the EJ team now work from home, I asked around to see what ‘home‘ meant to individuals in different family circumstances and contexts. As expected, there was a variety of responses however an underlying common theme. Fundamentally, home is less about the four walls, as constricting as they may seem at the moment, and more about relationships than place.
For Emanuele, “It’s where you can find that you are not alone … it’s your mountain where you can look far ahead and look at others on their mountains.” Lucia has two ideas of home: her ‘heart home’, the most stable place where her parents are and, secondly, her movable ‘nest’ where she instantly feels comfortable, secure and relaxed, where the walls are covered by memories and drawings. For Margie, and similarly for Lily, home has always meant safety, love, fun, warmth, growth, and togetherness. Dorelia says, “Home is where you feel happiest” and for Rene and Ben it is family, wherever that may be. La Casella, my temporary home in Montisi, Tuscany, before the holiday came to an abrupt end.
Like ‘home’, Wantak in pidgin English is one of those loaded words that morphs depending on the context. In the village, your wantak would be the immediate family and others outside that circle would be, well, outsiders. However, if you were in a nearby city anybody from your village is a wantak and if you’re overseas, you guessed it, anybody from your homeland is a wantak (one talk). The definition of home undergoes a similar transformation. Homeland refers to our country of origin, or where we have set down roots, however it can also be contracted to define our ‘village‘ or, within that context, our residence or apartment.
Alain De Botton, in the ‘Architecture of Happiness’, suggests that, “we need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical: to compensate for a vulnerability.” If ever there was a time we are entitled to feel vulnerable, it is now in the midst of the pandemic. Our house as home, is much more than shelter and a place to sleep, it contains who we are and defines a boundary in an uncertain world.