What does 'home' mean to you?
Home is a concept that most people understand, but it's not the same for any two of us. Whether it's where you hang your hat, where your favourite people are, or whether it's the house that your family has lived in for generations, such a familiar term has a different meaning to everyone.
As an expat that will be returning to the motherland this year (fingers crossed!), to a house and a street that I barely got to know before we left, but to a city where friends and family are close by, my own concept of home will be shifting again soon.
Until I turned 15, I moved every two to three years, so home was wherever my family lived at that time. When people ask me where I'm from, it's easier to just say I'm nomadic, a navy brat: I was born on one coast, spent six years on the other (in two, three-year intervals), and have bounced around in the middle the rest of the time.
But where am I really from? Where's home?
I settled in my adopted hometown when I was 15, and my parents are still there, though they left for a while when I was in university. I lived there for 15 years in a row, but left it again as an adult with a family of my own, twice now; I guess it counts as home. I hope to return there this summer. But forever? I'm not sure.
I've had so much time to consider home over the last two years of writing and editing Ground Control. My protagonist, Sarah, is trying to come to terms with leaving. She's leaving Earth -- the largest concept of home possible right now -- but also her house (that she'd only lived in for two years), and her parents, who still live in the house she grew up in, in another city, a home that she really left fifteen years before.
She thinks about her kids, and how she wants them to have a home. She looks back to her own childhood and the joy she remembers of riding her bike and feeling the wind in her hair, playing outside on summer nights till the lights came on, climbing trees, and spinning round and round until you fall down on the grass and the whole huge sky whirls around your head. These are things that I remember from when I was little, and things her children will never know: they'll grow up inside a biodome on Mars. She struggles with deciding which mementos to bring along: collections of photos? Which trinkets will capture the places she's left behind?
Her journey, and mine, when I think of it, follows the change that happens when you get ready to leave a home: from loss and regret, to the thought of adventure and a new life, to acceptance that wherever you end up, in whatever becomes your community, eventually becomes home again.
These themes also come to play in my next novel, which is underway, where the elements of Cate's home -- family, friends and community -- are far different than they first seem (but stay tuned).
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