Introduced By Holly King
As we’ve seen in previous Monday Moments when exploring our theme of home, this changes across countries, time, people, and space. But what is home, and when do we need it most? Is home something we define, or is it something innate in us that identifies itself when we need it to? In what moments does home pop up and become the focus, grounding us and keeping us anchored to the very core of who and where we are, as a single person and as a family, a community, a culture?
Today we focus on pivotal ‘home’ moments in our lives and the importance of the sense of home within us all
First up is a short story by Afsana Elanko, showing how important home becomes during a major accident.
Home Lost And Found
It’s a cold, dark night in November, rain pouring down, wind blowing and the car wipers on full. I drive the well-trodden path. A journey I know well: every roundabout, every turn. It’s my annual shopping trip with my school friends, which we’ve enjoyed for the past 20 years. I’m driving to meet them. Car headlights coming towards me. Why is he driving so fast? Thud. Bang. Horn blaring. Pitch black. Darkness.
Indistinguishable sounds. Darkness.
Warring of machines. Silence. Darkness.
Undistinguishable voices. Darkness.
Indistinguishable sounds. Warring of machines. Undistinguishable voices. Darkness. Silence.
Hum in the background. Voices in the distance. Beeping of machines. Whoosh dup. Whoosh dup. Whoosh dup. Pain in my throat. Let me make it better. Let me touch it. Let me rub it better. Move hand. Where’s my hand? Open eyes open. Why are you not opening? Painful eyelids. What’s happening? Let me try to touch my eyes. Move hand move. Why are you not moving? Let me try the other one. Still no movement. What’s happening? My chest is going up and down. I try to take a deep breath. I can’t breathe. Something’s in my mouth. Where am I? What’s happening? I can’t breathe. I can’t pull this thing out. I move my tongue around. It’s long and round. It’s a tube. Who’s put a tube in my mouth? Let me bite it out. I can’t breathe. I need it out. I’m choking. Coughing. Gagging. Fluid in my mouth. I feel the darkness coming back. It’s going grey.
I hear muffled sounds. They make no sense. Whoosh dup…whoosh dup. The sound suddenly stops. Someone is pulling at my mouth. The tube is moving. It’s being pulled out. Someone is here to help me. My throat is sore, it burns as the tube is being pulled. I can withstand the pain for my breath. Ouch. Then the tube is out. I can breathe again. I gasp for breath. Taking one breath after another. Before the breath finishes, I take another, and then another. I’m breathing uncontrollably, one breath after another.
“What’s happening?” a concerned voice says.
Another voice says, “It’s normal when they start breathing again. We often see it.”
I feel a hand on my forehead.
These are just sounds and words. They’re not making sense to me. Where am I? What happened?
“Take your time. Gently does it,” the soft voice says.
The sweet tender caress on my forehead.
“Don’t worry, I’m here.” The same calming voice again. My breath is slowing. The gentle stroking of my forehead continues.
“I’m here, don’t worry.” My chest starts rising and falling rhythmically. A rhythm of its own. My breath has found its way home.
I’m confused. A voice has so much power – or is it the touch? Either way, I thank the special sweet voice. Thank you for bringing me home.
That’s how I came out of the coma. I was back home.
© Dr Afsana Elanko, 2022
Afsana has also shared a piece of art to illustrate the fragmented memories of coming in and out of consciousness and making sense of the world around us and ultimately ‘coming home’, titled Memories Of Finding Home.
© Dr Afsana Elanko, 2022
Next, we have a poem from our Editor, Madeleine:
A House Full Of Kids
I once had a house full of kids, dears
The most exuberant bunch in the world.
There were mud-splattered boots in the hall, dears
And drama and dance for the girls.
Then number one left for Scotland
And number two, near London town
And then there were three in the house, dears
And we started to double down.
Now three have turned into two, dears
As another one moves away
The images left mere ghosts, dears
Of brim-full yesterdays.
With films of dust on the shelves, dears
Behind yellowing, slightly smeared glass
The paintings they did on the fridge, dears
From a time that went too fast.
And then, when the house is empty
Just the two of us filling this place
We chase shadows of those who once lived here
Through an altogether new time and space.
But instead of misty-eyed missing
and hollowly echoing walls
We’ll remember as creators
of that life, we can find our way to new shores.
Adventure and travel and hope, dears
In each other and the ones who have left
And rather than bemoaning their lack, dears
Complete once again, not bereft.
And our house will be full of more kids, dears
A joyous and happy new world
With us sitting right in the middle
As life’s next chapter unfurls.
© Madeleine F White, 2022
Now, Julie Dexter tells us her definition of home and how we can feel displaced when we’re moving.
Home is a place of physical and emotional comfort.
I know from my own experience of facing the many difficulties of St Mungo’s hostel, that, when you’re homeless, it’s still possible to have a sense of being at home, within nature, in the hills or on busy streets. Being in danger, however, within a cardboard box beneath the bridge at Finsbury Park, would not be home.
There seems to be a distinction between being home and being at home. Being at home, you feel comfortable within yourself, within your surroundings. You could feel at home anywhere: on horseback, in the stern of a boat, or hiking in the countryside.
Moving house can make you feel as though you’re adrift. It takes time to make it home, and develop a sense of familiarity each time you return to your front door. Just as the motor memory seems to have linked the cutlery drawer to the other side of the kitchen, it takes a few weeks to rewire the new journey when setting the table.
Materially, everything is crammed into boxes and for a while, you cannot seem to locate utensils or other sundries you need. Or the cat has run off, also confused and disorientated. This can be stressful, particularly if you have younger, elderly or infirm relatives living with you. It’s not so much the packing when you leave, as the unpacking at the other end, finding a place for everything. Fixtures and fittings must go up, to house books, towels, saucepans and so on. The disorientation can be extremely unsettling.
Any home without friends is alien. Knowing where and whom to turn to locally, and being able to pop round for tea and a chat is essential and to be cherished; as is sitting at an old, much-used table in a pair of freshly washed socks, alone or with companionship.
When I was at college, reading, writing and learning, interpreting texts, and putting my thoughts down on paper, I found a point of stasis, equilibrium, and spiritual contentment. While studying, I was at peace within, and at, home.
Perhaps, then, home is a sense of living without disturbance, of being in any place where you can just be, whether outdoors or in: a place to relax, a sanctuary, in the company of others, or alone. Home is where you feel you belong, whether that’s the countryside, the city or by the sea. It’s where you have friends and are respected and valued; where you love and are loved in return.
Home is a state you carry within you, and perhaps, for some, it’s what they’re still seeking.
© Julie Dexter, 2022
Lastly, Sebastian Elanko has written a short story where home is a goal.
A 100-Second Kiss
Ben stood nervously but was trying to be calm. He slowly paced forwards and backwards. Today he was going to do a 100-second kiss in front of a huge crowd, including his fiancée, Emma. He was a heartthrob for many girls and drew the attention of middle-aged women too. He had practiced the kiss several times, including the start and finish. Ben had rehearsed in several places and with various people, including men and women.
Last time he attempted the 100-second kiss was with Sandra, a 48-year-old; a lady twice Ben’s age, but he could not finish it. Halfway through he was extremely nervous, so he stopped. Sandra was very experienced. She had a good body and the fitness level of a 20-year-old. Compared to Sandra, Ben did not have much experience. Sandra performed long kisses with several people and was well known for her kissing. She had had many boyfriends but had never been married. This did not bother Ben. As far as he was concerned, she was a very good kisser and he could learn a lot from her.
Emma had known Sandra for a long time and hated her from the start. However, she was not aware of Ben’s relationship with Sandra. He avoided the subject, as he thought it would jeopardise everything. Ben learned from Sandra; she taught him all the techniques of kissing, such as how to start and how to finish. He had been waiting for this moment a long time. Emma being in the crowd was a last-minute surprise for Ben. How was he going to do the kiss in front of his fiancée? Sandra was scared that Emma’s presence would affect Ben’s performance.
Ben prepared himself as it was just about to start. Sandra’s instructions were echoing in his ears.
“Ben, if you want to do the 100-second kiss, you must enjoy every single second.”
“If you don’t enjoy what you do, you can’t perform.”
“First close your eyes before it starts but keep your ears open.”
“Never look into the eyes of whom you are doing it with.”
“Dig deep. Open your eyes a few seconds later and dig even deeper.”
“Complete focus, do not look at anyone, just perform.”
“Keep focused until you finish.”
After all, she was the best kisser he knew. How could he not hang on her every word?
The moment arrived. This is what Ben had been preparing for. Three, two, one and it started. Ben closed his eyes and started straight away. He could feel his heart beating in his chest, the adrenalin was pumping. At 75th-second he was in euphoria. He was gasping for breath at the 85th-second, and thought he was going to collapse, but he held on and dug deep and deeper still. Only ten-seconds more: could he do it? At the 95th-second, he knew he could. At 100-seconds, he kissed the finishing ribbon of the 800-metre Olympic race.
Yes, it was a world record! Finally, Ben was home! The home he had dreamed of.
© Sebastian Elanko, 2021
Dr Afsana Elanko has provided a piece of artwork titled Memories Of Running for this short story, detailing “memories of my husband during his training to run the London marathon and his written work in relation to it.”
© Dr Afsana Elanko, 2022
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Is home something that we define, or is it something innate in us that identifies itself when we need it to?