Boy graduated last weekend, and for months prior we were pondering on questions like where he would work and whether he would move out of his family’s house and stay in an apartment or condo. I told him at one point that if he could afford to stay where he lived now, then stay. Home can be a very underrated place sometimes. Take it from me. I do not have a home.
Okay, I am not homeless either. But I did spend my years in places that I can no longer go back to. I was born in my parents’ old house here in the Philippines, but I have never seen the place with remembering eyes. I was more or less two years old when I had my first plane ride.
I don’t remember the first three or four houses we lived in in Bahrain. (We kept moving to bigger houses once we could afford it.) Even the last house we lived in, one I had grown really lovingly attached to, was left behind by my parents in favor of a cozier apartment.
What of something more permanent, like my school? Sacred Heart School Bahrain is still there, but even before I left it had already undergone several renovations. The place we used to call the “Junior Playground” was erased to put up a new building. The “Junior Hall” had become rickety and dangerous, needing long stilts to keep the roof in place.
Teachers had come and gone, rules had changed. Even if I could pay a visit to the campus, knowing my principal, I wouldn’t be allowed to explore within the campus or the classrooms. Prohibited in my own childhood venue.
Perhaps I am asking for pity. Mostly, I am not. Whenever I refer to Bahrain, or our summer house for breaks, I always call them “home”. But I mean those in general, as a place I go back to when I am done with classes or when it is time to check out of the dorms.
They are not places that carry my history or the proofs that my childhood existed. And that means they are not always, though they are sometimes, the places where I feel safe.
That is where you reassure yourself that you happened, and happiness happened, that being carefree, making mistakes and learning from them, getting sick and getting better, all happened. I love those things that bounce and echo on the walls, and that is what makes a place home for me.
My parents come over to the Philippines once in a while, or if we’re lucky we get to visit Bahrain. My parents carry what of those bounces and echoes that they can. They feed us, hug us, tease us, nurse us, and do everything they can to make us feel safe, at least for the meantime.
But they can’t carry every bit of my childhood. They have their own home to return to, their own childhood and memories. They can’t embrace me the same way a building can. In stillness and service, in unmoving, unchanging pictures and invisible replays.
Again with the pity. I am not a home-grounded person, exactly, looking for some place abandoned and untouched because that preserves things forever and does not change them. Cute, but I do like to move around and change.
I want to travel the world, take lots of pictures, meet different people and learn the difference between their accents. I want to spend my mornings on the terraces of pretty little B&Bs, my afternoons in musical cafés and evenings on outdoor restaurants by candlelight.
I want to work in or volunteer for a humanitarian advocacy group, see the smiles of adults and children alike. I want to find a perfect little apartment that I will live alone in for at least a year. I want to go in search of the biggest libraries, the grandest Churches, and the quaintest secret bookstores. I want to write about everything I’ve ever seen.
I like to keep moving.
But at the end of it, I’d like somewhere to come back to. Some place to preserve everything I’ve ever seen and prove that they happened. Some place home.