I’ve spent a lot of time at home these last two weeks. Yes, I went and overdid it with all the book stuff and landed myself in bed — again. But, hey – I’ve got a bed. And I’m safe at home. These days, that’s something to be VERY thankful for.
I asked a few writers to be guest-bloggers – to contribute very short stories, which I’ll post every so often. Here’s the question each had to answer: “What does home/belonging mean to you?”
Georgeina Knapp sent this lovely story:
THE ESSENCE OF HOME
The word is a floodgate that releases memories and emotions — at the most unexpected moments. Sometimes, all it takes is a sound, a smell, a sensation, a sentence, or even the sight of a simple household item.
And before you know it, you’re swept back. Home.
Home is an image. The image of the blue and white mixing bowl and the brown pitcher embossed in a basket- weave pattern, passed down from my grandmother. The sight of these objects brings me straight back home.
Home to my childhood, and to my mother making pastry. I’d watch her measure the flour and lard into the bowl. Beside it, the pitcher held the ice-cold water that she slowly added, creating the basis of delicious pies of every kind.
The building that held the essence of home was an old farm house, its exterior covered in cream clapboard with green trim. It stood apart from neighbouring houses and faced open fields across the street, giving it a feeling of country although it was at the edge of the village. On the front lawn, there was a swing on each of the two large maple trees, a place for happy summer hours. In the back, there was a huge garden where my mother grew the vegetables she would preserve for us to eat all winter.
Home is sound. The sounds from our small barn. The white Leghorn chickens, the pigs and the cows.
The cows mooed softly as though having a conversation with each other, and called more loudly to get our attention when they decided it was time to be fed or milked. The pigs sounded like someone with a bad cold. They snuffled and snorted until one offended the other; then there was a loud squeal of protest. The sounds from the chicken coop ranged from the gentle clucking and chirping of contentment to the loud squawk of excitement.
Home is smell. The outdoor smell of animals, the damp earthy smell of the garden after a rain, and the sweet smell of flowers growing around the house.
The inside of our house was fragrant with the vegetables, fruit, jam and pickles my mother preserved during the summer, or food cooking in the oven on cold winter days. In the dark cellar downstairs, there was a different, but no less distinctive smell: a somewhat damp, musty odour which filled my nose whenever I ventured down there for coal or a jar of the preserves crowded on the concrete bench along one wall.
At Christmas the house was filled with the spicy aroma of special cookies baking and the fresh pine scent of the real Christmas tree we brought home from my uncle’s farm.
Home is sensation. The warmth of family and friends who gather for a cozy evening, and the warmth of the big kitchen range that burned coal and wood.
In winter, we loved the heat from that big range. We put our wet mittens to dry on the open oven door and set our boots under the stove.
In summer that same heat could be unwelcome: even on the hottest days, the fire would have to be lit to cook our meals.
On summer nights when the upstairs bedrooms were too hot to sleep in, my mother would spread some quilts on our front lawn and we would sleep there for a few hours until the house cooled down enough for us to return to our beds.
Home is a single sentence: words from my father.
I’ll always remember how my father summed up the feeling of home one winter evening. He and I were coming back to the house from the barn and he lifted me up to look through the kitchen window. He asked me what I saw. I told him I saw mom taking something out of the oven. And that the table was set for supper and a freshly made pie was on the cupboard.
My father said, “That’s the best thing of all: coming home and there’s somebody there”.
I was just a small child, but I knew what my father meant, and I agreed.