When I told my friends I was going home, they knew the house I meant; the house I had been born in seven or eight years before. You can never play for long enough but I knew it was time to go home if my da wasn’t to come looking for me with the dog. So I went home, to the house I had been born in, the only home I’d known or would know for twenty years.
When my friends asked me where I was going on holiday, I’d say I was going home and they’d laugh. But that’s what my ma called the island, that’s where she called home. She’d been away ten years now, and would be away for forty more, but every summer she took us all home to granda’s on the island.
I was at home there too, and my brothers, when we went out on our granda’s boat or watched him watching the tide against the light, eyes slits of green. It was my home as much as it was ma’s, it was home as much as the house I’d been born in. Aunts visited every day and ma’s friends we called Auntie, hair ruffling, old chocolate gifting. Then one summer the curtains were closed for a year when nanna left us.
In my twenties my home was in the deep sky-blue south, sun and sea, friends and just enough. My da said I made my home there. But it takes more than making to make a home. A home needs to be, to become and be. And once it is, it always will be. Now when I go back to visit where was my home on the sea, in the sun, I am at home with my friends. As soon as we arrive I breathe deep the air of home, I feel the calm warm quiet in the eye of the world’s storms, and our home here, our home in the city, is out of mind until we return.
When we are in the south, home is where our friends are, home is how we feel, not where we are. At home on the sand, at home asleep under the pines, at home late at night round the fire on the roof.
Back in the north, we watch from the top of the worn mountain as crystal light streams into the melting haar. We can see our house from here, now the mist has drawn back to the sea. Our house, our home, where many have been and many have gone. Home where our families became family, where our friends became family, where the heart is.
I have been to many places and have lived in many. Home is the magnet that pulls our hearts, circles become spirals and funnel slowly to the centre of our world. Years ago I saw a poem that said that home is with you, breathing slow beneath the skins. And now I know it is.
First published as part of Scotland’s Stories of Home April 2014