I recently got to go home. Home home, like. To the place I’ve known all my life, where my father looked after everyone’s breakfast and my mother looked after everyone’s dinner and in between I drank hot coffee and saw some siblings and caught up with my best friends. At last.
It felt so good.
Home is many things. We have been in the same house all my family’s life and with that comes a familiarity and an easiness that is hard to beat. That’s my home turf, a place I don’t have to navigate my way around or have translated for me. I know where to go, who yer one is and how it is. Don’t cross me on my patch – I won’t be having it and someone will have my back. That’s a feeling I will never ever have anywhere else.
It’s also lovely to have the luxury, at 42, to be in your parents’ house and get to hang out with them and revert, for a time, to being like a girl again. They know me and care about me and buy that loaf of bread and make that dinner because they know it’s the one I like. I’m spoilt rotten really.
There’s a nice loop you can walk from the house. I’ve run it, cycled it – I’ve listened to my walkman, learned French verbs, chatted all the way and walked dogs-long-gone around it. Everyone’s home place changes over time and my home village (now, perhaps, officially a town?) is apparently one of the fastest changing in Ireland, but there are points on this loop – several in fact – which remain totally and exactly the same as always. The walk is punctuated with memory posts that mark out my life. That’s special.
Back in March, when everyone was house-grounded, I felt the pain of not being allowed to go home acutely. It’s not like I’m up and down to Cork every week or even every three weeks. It’s more the fact that if I want, when I want, I can pack up the car to be there in a couple of hours. And there’s nothing like it.
We’ve been asked to undertake a lot in the last number of months and this not being able to go home has been a tough one for me. I was reminded some time into lockdown, as we watched various people break or flex the quarantine rules to suit themselves, that everyone is just trying their best to cope in a really weird situation. We’re only human and this has been hard, so you have to believe that everyone is just doing the best that they can do. There are also the head-the-balls – you know, the dude who cuts in front of you to nab a yogurt in the shop. Plonker. Then there are the people who have that bit more to lose. They’re vulnerable or they live with someone who is vulnerable or they really want to see their family again sometime soon. Between all the layers of mankind that’s shown up to the weirdest show in town, I’m just hoping we can all compensate for each other in order to get on top of this thing.
Back in March I looked forward to getting home so much. Like everything in life, because I couldn’t have it, I wanted it all the more. Had I gotten home in April or May I feel it would have been an emotionally-charged dash, the final leg from Mallow passed with a lump in my throat, ending with my falling into a weeping mess just inside my parents’ front door. But by July, the high emotion of the early days had subsided and getting home didn’t mark ‘the end’ of something. It merely marked my first visit home in the new normality of meeting my aunt in her garden and my friends at the park and wearing a mask in Centra. After a lovely time at home I returned not thinking ‘yippee, we did it’, rather I felt deflated that this cautious can-we-hug-can’t-we thing is around to stay. That’s what got me most on my trip home.
At least I got to go home. So many people are still waiting. At least I have a home to return to. So many people don’t. At least the head-the-balls are in the minority. So many people have that bit more to lose.