The Bitter-sweetness of going home..

From the blog.. With Summer, along with deliciously long evenings and outdoor dinners, also for many of us comes the iconic kiwi holiday. The throwing the kids, the dog and everything including the kitchen sink in the trusty family Toyota and getting away from it all. For some though, whether it’s a for a holiday, Christmas break or New Year celebration, that Summer road trip can often mean a trip home, to family, to where we grew up. To where we began. With that comes a very unique bitter sweetness, where the past and present suddenly seem very close. Time sometimes seems more fluid when we return to the place we grew up. Adam Duritz once wrote “If Dreams are like movies, then Memories are Films about Ghosts”. When we go back to the haunts of our childhood, our memories become clearer, and the distance of time dissipates. Our minds play out the memories of our childhood selves like our own internal movie script. When I go home, my memories of my Father, and my Grandmother are much more vivid and tangible. As I watch my own children play where I once played, I remember the same games, under the same trees, the kid next door and I always a little dirty and browned by the sun but happy enough. I can see my best friend and I camping at the bottom of the garden, catching cockabully fish in the stream, playing in the gullies. I remember walking the seven kilometres to the beach with my friends, on a hot day to cool off, only to be burning hot by the time we returned home again. Our worries were as small as we were. It all seems so idyllic looking back.

When most people think of their childhood home, it is usually the place they lived between the ages of five and twelve, because this is apparently when we form our identities, and our strong sense of ‘self’ is established. All the childhood experiences, both good and bad, shape how we see the world and ourselves. Going home can conjure up all of these memories, but our clever brain can be a trickster too. Psychologists believe that each time we invoke a memory, our brain changes it slightly. We are also prone to looking at our memories through rose coloured glasses, making everything seem a little more idyllic than it was. What is left behind after all this changing and rehashing of memory is often the feelings we associate with home: the warmth of a Grandmothers hug, the peacefulness of the wind in the trees outside our childhood bedroom window. This ‘feeling’ is often what we miss the most. The welsh call this “Hiraeth”, which roughly translates to a feeling of homesickness, with a longing for what is lost. Going home causes us to reflect, to ponder, to wonder about the path we chose. What advice would you give to your childhood self, if you knew what lay ahead? What would you tell them to do differently, if anything at all? There’s also coming to terms with the fact that what was once your home, a place you cherish, is no longer yours, if it ever was. It can magnify any family tension, making for some interesting family dinners. But it can also ground us, remind us of who we are, and who we were before life tumbled us about, polishing off the rough edges and refining our values and beliefs for better or worse. Its nostalgia, at its melancholic and self-indulgent best., but if it causes us to stop, think and reflect in amongst all the chaos of life, then surely it cannot be bad thing.

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© 2016 Claire Inkson. All photographs copyright Claire Inkson

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