Thursday Connectors: What Is Home?
By Farzana Hakim
Hi, all. It’s Farzana, your host. This month, on Thursday Connectors, I come with lots of emotion and sentimental examples of creative writing using a subject I imagine is close to all our hearts.
Home is our theme and what is more sentimental to us than our homes? Yet, when you sit and ponder about Home, as easy as its meaning may seem at first, in actual fact, the home is a really complex subject, studied for centuries. Therefore, our Connectors this month are somewhat like that, too: heartfelt, complex and raw!
First up, we have a piece from Clare Cooper about whether home is where the heart is. Mary Walsh’s poem, Home Is Not, is next and is followed by poems, Bellyful from Tak Erzinger and If from A J Wilson. I also connect with Jimena Yengle, who shares a letter and an illustration. Finally, Tavinder pens down her thoughts as to why her name is so important to her.
A great line-up!
When I got married, I moved to Dagenham from East Ham, which isn’t far at all but, whenever I travel the 20 minutes or so in the car or bus to visit my parents, I’m hit by nostalgia each and every time and I relish my memories and childhood habits here. However, come a few hours later, the desire and desperation to travel back to Dagenham, to my own home, where I am the one playing Mum of the house, kicks in and makes me hurry back: to my comfort zone, my belongings, my ways… But, come another few days and the longing to be back at East Ham strikes and I can’t rest until I’ve taken the short trip ‘back home’ and had my mum’s handmade roti, or heard my dad’s rants about the rising price of gas and the builders who are adding another storey to his already three-storey home!
How bizarre is this? I told you, Home is such a complex theme!
Nevertheless, let’s move on and connect with Clare Cooper, who writes something completely relatable to many of our experiences.
Hi, Clare. Let’s connect:
Home Is Where The Heart Is – Wherever That May Be!
What does home mean to you? I ask because, the other day, I mentioned to a friend that I must have been the only person I know who didn’t mind their lawn turning biscuit-brown during the scorching temperatures we all endured this summer. I said it was because it reminded me of home (the countryside and ploughed fields where I grew up in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire). She looked at me curiously and said, “Where do you actually think of as home?”
It stopped me in my tracks, because shouldn’t home be the house I currently live in with my partner, containing all my/our worldly possessions (such as they are)? I mean, I usually refer to it as “home” when I’m talking about it. Sometimes, though, it’s just “my house” or even “the house.” Hmmm…I wonder why I say that? There is a detachment in those words. We’ve been here 13 years now, but it took several years before I could feel it was ‘ours’ and not still owned by our predecessors! And I’ve never moved anywhere and thought: ‘This is it; this is my forever home.’ Instead, I’ve always thought: ‘This is OK, but it’s not my dream home. It’ll do for now. Another rung on the property ladder.’ But what exactly is it I’m looking for? I’m beginning to think it’s an amalgamation of all the homes I’ve ever known and lived in. That’s a pretty tall order! Another friend admitted that the place he always thinks of as ‘home’ is the house his grandparents lived in when he was a child, yet he has lived in many different places since, including abroad.
My house is full of stuff, but is it all there just to fill a void? Or is it there to reassure me: “I have things, therefore I exist”? Do these things anchor me to the present, yet, at the same time, remind me of the people and places that are no longer in my life? Would it be better, more freeing, less shackled, not to have any possessions at all? This is something I find hard to get my head around. As a lifelong sentimental hoarder and collector of all manner of knick-knacks, objects and books, part of me envies those who can live very sparsely and simply, but I can’t see myself joining their ranks anytime soon!
Even though I left home at 18 and have lived in several places since – indeed, living most of my life around the area I’m in now, in Surrey – I still feel ‘homesick’ pangs when I think of the two places I grew up in. I dream about them a lot. They’re never happy dreams, though; serving to remind me that people are always more important than possessions. All the ‘things’ in the world won’t bring back lost family and friends, nor fill that empty, aching void, however hard I try.
The Welsh have a great word for the feelings I experience: Hiraeth. As a race, they can lean towards the melancholy and, as I have a tiny bit of Welsh in me (my paternal grandmother, who hailed from the Rhondda Valley), I’m happy to go along with that. As far as they are able to describe it, they say the word means: “A pull on the heart, a feeling of having missed something that’s lost. Homesickness, nostalgia and longing, tinged with grief and sadness.” I can’t improve on that!
(c) Clare Cooper, 2022
Our second Connector, Mary Walsh’s poem, is definitely another piece that most of us will relate to.
Hi, Mary. Let’s connect:
Home Is Not
Home is not a doorway
Or a high street des res.
Home is not a sofa
borrowed from a friend for surfing
Home is not a B&B
for 3 kids and their parents
Home is not a hostel
shouts during the night and fights
Home is not a tent on a roundabout
noisy and damp
Home is safety
Home is permanent
Home is your belonging
Home is safe
(c) Mary L Walsh, 2022
Our third Connector, TAK Erzinger, shares a poem that reflects on the idea of carrying your home within you, as in your heritage. I think it’s a beautiful take on the theme.
Hi, TAK. Let’s connect:
Inside my belly, I carry fire
diluted dreams of my ancestors.
Though their lives have passed
insatiable hunger remains
like an eager tree in spring
I am fruited with their legacy.
Even as I have ripened
they refuse to drop away
I let their lineage emerge
I will not fight against them
but turn to what feels instinctual
I will use their leftovers, partake in
recipes like theirs but not without
my own touch, inside my own vessel
letting fresh ingredients – fecund
and raw wholly blend and boil.
Honouring that a half a world and
half a century ago flames flickered
and bare bodies cooked
seasoning the taste to come.
(c) TAK Erzinger, 2022
Next up is a poem from A J Wilson. This really touched me and I thought it matched our theme beautifully!
Hi, Ange. Let’s connect:
If you can love, while the world hates
holding hope tightly in your arms
If you can be thankful for each day
even when it is painful to face the light
If you can smile when a flower blooms
although you know it will fade too soon
If you can dance with abandon when
you know this will be your last dance
If you can still dream of achievements ahead
when the road you travel is stony and uneven
and you contemplate stopping, yet never give in
then you will forever be happy, living in your own skin.
(c) A J Wilson, 2022
Sometimes, finding a place called ‘Home’ can take a person far and away, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Next month, I’ll be exploring this in a wider context and am asking you to send me your stories or poems with a reference to migration, immigration and displacement. It would be extra-special for me to receive any stories reflecting on the refugee experience.
For now, I have this superb piece of writing from Jimena Yengle, which reflects on a search to find the perfect haven.
Hi, Jimena. Let’s connect:
Letter To Gina
Bled, June 15, 2020
I have arrived at the remote circus, at the gates of the valley of fruity cream.
I have sat down to contemplate that rain of salted caramel, which bursts when dancing on a plot of pistachio.
I assure you, this scenario looks identical to your bowl of soup, filled with minty ice cream. Do you think I don’t remember? My dishes were never part of an experimental gallery, until that day.
How could I describe it? This is almost as difficult as talking about you, classic natural emporium. You remember? Because I carry it in my standard term memory. It’s hard for me to hold on to the present, as psychologists tell me. However, it is not the past that causes me anxiety, but true happiness. Your face in my memories just makes me wonder when I’ll see you again.
It’s time to turn these grey tights into puppets for our next show. I think of something clearly experimental, such as the soup that turned into ice cream. Do you agree? Will you come with me to fly this time? I promise to teach you what I know, when it comes to fighting pirates who tell grim stories.
I give you a magical world in your dreams, and warmth when you wake up. Something similar to what you offered me when we met.
Excuse me, I’m a bit inspired. A year ago, I would have scoffed at this, frankly. It is only the beginning of an adventure; it is almost always the most stable and least terrifying part. I feel excited. I have so many reasons to feel this way. Bled is a wonder painted in a painting in your room, which I will never understand. I’d better start exploring and getting to know the point on earth where I’ve landed without reservation or rent.
I am writing to you as soon as I take a break, and go in search of a safe space on this Island.
© Jimena Yengle, 2022
You can connect with Jimena on Twitter: @JimenaRamosY1
Here’s an illustration, also by Jimena Yengle, Roma Enamorada. I’m sharing it here because, when I first saw it, I was captured and taken completely elsewhere. It’s so much like my abstract writer’s mind. Who else can stare at it and understand its many meanings to write stories about our theme of Home?
© Jimena Yengle, 2022
Our final Connector comes from Tavinder New, who explains why it’s important to get her name right. For me, my name is who I am, like my home. It’s mine and the most personal thing belonging to me. It’s my identity and my story. I felt this was a great piece to finish with.
Hi, Tavinder. Let’s connect:
What’s In A Name?
Shakespeare wrote: What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by other any name would smell as sweet!
My name, the one my parents chose, has meaning, a heritage, a frame of reference. But I’ve changed it, arranged it, and interchanged it to ‘Tav’, so people can pronounce it.
No, it’s not spelled Tavinda.
No, it’s not spelled Tavindre.
No, it’s not spelled Twinder.
I rage and gauge how it is misspelled.
My name is Tavinder, which has a frame of Sikhism and Punjabi culture, so it’s not just a name.
Learn to say it.
Learn to pronounce it.
Learn to ask what my name is.
I no longer try to blend in or defend my choices to be called Tavinder. So, say my name.
What’s in a name? Everything: background, culture and heritage!
(c) Tavinder New, 2022
And that’s it. What a spectacular set of Connectors this month! December’s Connectors will be just as great. So, do keep those submissions coming in.
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Home is a really complex subject, studied for centuries. Therefore, our Connectors this month are somewhat like that, too: heartfelt, complex and raw!