When you think of ‘home,’ what, specifically, do you think of?

When I think of home I think of waking up in my teenage bedroom, my un-spectacled eyes blurring the sloped yellow ceiling with it’s crudely painted, haphazard stars. Home is remembering how long it took to scrub the spray paint off the carpet. And my hands. And the cat. Home is the low, long window that yawned out to the “front” garden with it’s roses – so different to my sisters view of the back garden with its scrubby bushes, swingset, and sweeping views of the fields.

Those fields – I planted them until the sun set, harvested them until the first hard frost, and ran mile after mile around them until my knees gave in. Those aching fields, flat and monotonous and as endless as a teenager might dare to imagine. They stretched outwards, wrapping themselves behind villages and under schools, until they clattered headlong into the sea. 

Home is the sound of the English rain and knowing that all there is to do is sit in the conservatory and listen. The smell of the dirt. A visitors unidentified shoes in the utility room, and the kettle on. Home is October. Home is July and August. Home is my birthday in April collecting daffodils and filling the house with grass. The house – my house – converted from a school to a hunched, red-brick building held together by iron poles, magic, and necessity. We started wars in those walls – some of them small and inconsequential, resulting only in nostalgic conversations over telephones and emails – and others so heartbreakingly long-lasting that my parents sit in different houses now, aged with pain. 

Home is not twenty-eight. Home is not the air-conditioning failing to work, or the lack of snow removal on our street in winter. Home is not Applebees, or light beer, or Twilight fan fiction. Home is not my knees hurting when I role over at night, or the rapidly diminishing number that qualifies my motherhood potential. Home is not my own voice rattling self-consciously from my voice mail, making words in accents that are placeless.

Home could be the faces of my two four-legged children when I come home from work, the sound of their snores as I fall asleep, their first sleepy tail wag in the morning after breakfast. Home might be the smell of wood-fired steaks on a ninety-five degree day. Home almost certainly is my husband playing guitar downstairs when I sleep in on Sundays.

But home will always be that bedroom – the bookcases filled to capacity, the carpet strewn with clothes. Home will always be the pattern on the carpet, the sound of BBC Radio Four, and the shadow of the cat on the kitchen windowsill after he had come back from a long, strange night.

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