On any long break away from Australia, it is inevitable that the idea of home and what it is, starts to reverberate around the subconscious. You either end up homesick—or realise that to some degree “home” is where you are and what you make of it. Or some combination of this. I recall when my first marriage broke up—I was in my late twenties—I just wanted to go home and crawl into bed and maybe watch TV and eat roast meals and heavy puddings. But the “home” I was wanting comfort from was that of my childhood, with my parents and things familiar to the me of pre-adulthood, looking for it to cocoon me in a time warp and allow healing.
Since having my own children and now a marriage of thirty years, home was where they were—plus familiar objects, surrounded by familiar places with Aussie accents, good coffee and great food of any nationality my whim dictated. But the people—family and friends—always a key part.
We have had two houses in our married life and just moved into our third. Almost immediately we left for four and a half months (six in my husband’s case) overseas, so the “new” house has all of our “stuff” and is in a familiar suburb (and with one child and her partner) but it itself has no history of family luncheons, girlfriends crying on shoulders, to warrant it being home in a home-sick sense.
We’ve also, through all of our married life, had a weekender—a shack to escape the city, where we love writing. The children had a pony when they were young—now they plant fruit trees and enjoy making cocktails and BBQ’s on the balcony. As they left home to make their own way, and the house they grew up in was sold, this now has become the place of comfort and familiarity—the place of their roots. If I’m homesick in a traditional sense, this is the home my thoughts return to.
Now is over four months since I left Australia (now heading home), most of it spent on the road—walking, staying in a different place each night for six weeks, and the rest of the time in different cultures. The last five weeks we have had the call to Muslim prayers waking us each morning before dawn, and I pause to reflect on what I have missed. For I am ready to go home; while loving the smells and tastes of Morocco, I’m wanting to be not seen as the alien—“no, all closed there” and “this way…to my shop”; familiar refrains I won’t miss, as much as they add to the excitement and difference.
Travelling with my partner of course helps—and it’s been a working holiday (just finished my “half” of Two Steps Back”). But I miss friends and family—Facebook, emails and texts and Messenger have kept me in touch, but it is only the superficial, not the pulse of their daily lives; the late skype calls for work that reminds me my little girl is all grown up, the enthusiasm for the next walk which might take my son and his partner to somewhere that will cause me to fret until they return, the furrowed brow that tells me my friend is worried about one of his patients. I think of this when I think of all the displaced people around the world, many in countries I have been to recently living in camps for years with no sense of the future. Many will have family with them, many will not—none likely to have all the family and friends I return to, still safe. I think of the comfort in having family with you—but then know that they cannot be comforted when they worry for their children’s future—something more in peril than any child in Australia, certainly my own.
But beyond that, what stuff have I missed? I miss the birds—which were terrifyingly absent in rural Italy; the magpie’s swooping into the birdbath and three at a time sending water in all directions; the tiny wrens darting in and out, the rosellas cautiously sipping between descents on the surrounding fruit trees. I look forward to seeing the Moroccan rugs in the new house and despite the Camino (which did teach me to need stuff a whole lot less) I am really, really, sick of the same set of clothes that I’ve been managing with carry-on luggage. I look forward to good coffee and muesli (omg how I have missed unsweetened muesli…or actually, right now, any muesli…not a Moroccan thing), and real books (travelling light you have to use kindle). And I look forward to sharing how grateful I am to be Australian, and however much I will probably complain about politics and climate change…I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.