Sunburn With A Chill

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”
― James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

While sunscreen was applied liberally, there were bits that were missed. My ample bosom, the area that hatches its own escape plan from my bathers, is shedding its skin. One of the travellers has the remnants of dry skin on her shoulders.

“It’s feels weird” I mused to our first born last night while I applied lotion to my legs. “It’s 13 degrees outside and I have the remnants of sunburn.”

We’d driven to the shopping centre together that day. I’d pulled up in the car-park, reached for my non existent purse and then had to confirm that it was at home on the dining room table. She was kind, ignored my mistake and moved on with a subject changer.

“Where’d you get those pants?”

“You won’t believe it – 20 bucks from Target”

“Wow! That’s good! Is that where you got Annie’s pants?”

“No, Peter Morrissey is doing something with Big W, I found them there, not the one in town though, the one at Seaford”

“Oh yeah…”

“It all feels like a million years ago doesn’t it? Speaking about those places. So far away, but only last week. You know Fi calls it Geographical Schizophrenia”

“I’m not sure I really know what schizophrenia is?” she says

“It’s a mental illness, some people hear voices or perhaps take on multiple personalities, but mostly it just affects how people feel or think.”

“Isn’t that bi-polar?”

“No, I think bi-polar is more manic mood swings…” I stop myself when I realise I’m not entirely sure of the exact behaviour behind bi-polar. Are manic depressives bi-polar? My mind takes me to a land of geographical bi-polar disorder.

I think of the euphoria attached to a move, the first discovery, getting the phone connected – I can do this! Feeling friendless – I suck at this. Finding the post office, enrolling the kids at a new school – I am totally rocking this. Waiting for three days for the plumber to come and teach you the hidden secrets of your house in which nothing seems to work – I’m so over this.  Perhaps she’s onto something.

And while G and I have an internal move within Doha planned, I’m not experiencing the culture shock that comes with a daily ice-bucket challenge of arriving in a new country. Mine is far gentler, a wave that passes through, a feeling of being here and there. Whilst here, there pops into my mind on a frequent basis. A song on the radio, something one of the little travellers says that I think Grandparents and neighbours would find funny. A familiar name. “We have a cousin called Lily…” I hear one of my little travellers say as someone mentions their sister. I know in that split second we are all somewhere else.

We always will be.

For us home is not a block of land, a postcode, subdivision, or country town. We belong in many places and have left fragments of our heart in several. We still name Houston as our “favourite” house, our cul-de-sac in Calgary as the best neighbourhood. I search through pictures of Tripoli hoping to see evidence that our house still stands, and have returned to our home in Jakarta. The plan is to stand in our monkey laden front yard in Malaysia one day with the little travellers. Our base, our post box, and now many of our family memories are at the beach, but I still call Renmark my home.

The truth, home is no longer a place. Home is a collection of people who can never be in the one room. It’s a feeling, a warmth, a sun kissed reflection in time – and it travels with me always.

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  1. I’ve had friends back in Australia say to me that I’m not settled, that I’m not making a home for us while we live here in Qatar, that I should be home in Sydney. I couldn’t be anymore settled if I tried. Matt and Sadie are my ‘home’ where they are it feels and is home to me.

    • Corinne Rochette says

      I understand exactly what you are saying. This is how I’ve always felt throughout our years of expat. That home was were my family was. Unfortunately, my ex had a different idea :-/

  2. Corinne Rochette says

    Yes, I know that feeling, even though I have now repatriated and changed the very composition on my family.
    And on the bipolar/ manic depressive thing: it’s the same thing. Just a new name to describe the same thing. At least from my vantage point of a patient, that is what I have taken from what the doctors told me. Maybe there is a minute difference, but I am not a psychiatrist and don’t know of any.

  3. The last paragraph is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in a long time. 🙂

  4. Strange to read this as 3 weeks ago we were where our passport says is “home” but we don’t live there. The confusion still surrounds us to which shop I found that item – here or there? Which person I had the conversion with – here or there. Not sure where here or there are but wondering if perhaps it was a dream or in my mind. I agree with your first born – I think I have bi-polar.

  5. Home is where the heart is.
    Home is where you lay your head.
    Bah humbug lol

    Home is a very confusing word!

    You are fortunate to have an Aussie home/base to go back to, but like all our expat friends who do I wonder if that makes it just a bit harder to define home when you are living away? We don’t have a home/base in our home country so when we visit its serviced accommodation or lots of 2-4 night sleepovers so we dont overstay our welcome.

    Home for us is where we are, our day to day life and our stuff tho it would be amazing to have everyone from all our homes together in the one place for just a weekend.

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