Going Home: For Those of Us Who Don’t Have One Anymore
One of the very first things people ask you at a party is “Where are You From?”. It’s a hard question that those of us who spend our lives moving can’t quite put our finger on.
I was born and raised in small-town Saskatchewan. But I went to high school in Regina. I went to University there as well, but moved shortly after. Then we started our RCMP life and we hop, skipped, and jumped across Saskatchewan, landing in Alberta.
So as for where I’m from, I’ll say Saskatchewan, and to ‘whereabouts’ I’ll say a little of everywhere.
But where’s home?
I’m a proud Saskatchewan girl, no doubt. I’ll explain I’m not really sure where HOME is, but I can tell you what I think of when I say I’m going home. I tell them I’m going ‘home’ to a place I have never actually lived… in Manitoba.
Let’s rewind for a minute.
I don’t have a childhood home in the place I was born and raised anymore. I don’t even have the house that my parents moved me to in mid-high school to revisit either. I spent my last part of University between a basement suite and a downtown condo, both of which I’m ok to never see again.
My grandparents are now all gone, a fact that bemoans my heart whenever the realization washes over me. I can drive by, and say hi to all four of them at the same resting place, but there’s no deep comfort left for me in any home in Saskatchewan. In its place, a relinquishing attachment to the province I spent the most time in.
So when I need to head home, when I need a break from my life and a reset to the girl I used to be, I have to head a little more east.
I spent my summers going to visit my Aunt and Uncle in rural Manitoba. I spent weeks at a time there, all alone, un-inhibited by things like parents and siblings, starting when I was 9. I was immediately put to work doing chores, grooming horses, and finding a place for myself at another table.
There are so many moments I hark back to now as an insanely busy mom-of-three, living in the ‘burbs, driving a mini-van, whose only connection to the farm is standing in a stall too far away for my liking after our recent move.
Moments like the later afternoons I would crawl up to the hay loft and dangle my feet over the edge. I would sit and watch the river flow, mares and foals grazing on the dark green grass, and wonder if there was anything quite as peaceful as this. I remember questioning my own being, what it meant to be me. I was truly a tween Descartes up there in that loft. It was a perfect few moments until the Manitoba flies found me and sent me scurrying down the sketchy loft ladder terrifying all the horses in their stalls.
It was in the times I was lonely and wanted to go home, until I looked outside and saw all the furry creatures, or curled up next to my aunt on the couch, falling asleep so deeply after a hard day on the farm, that I didn’t feel them move me.
Or the time my cousin taught me how to drive in her four-door Corolla, round and round on the track between the barn and the arena. I sincerely doubt I’ve ever smiled that big again in my life, as when I gingerly put pressure on the gas and I took off driving. I was 12, which in farm kids terms, is a late start to the driving game.
I went to horse shows, played with foals, stayed up too late, and did eventually come home with a kitten of my own. It was exactly what I expect now when I send my kids to hang out solo with the grandparents, or aunties and uncles. A little liberation, a bit of independence but with the comfort of being with people just like your mom and dad.
So last week, we loaded the kids up and made the journey back to Saskatchewan and Manitoba for the first time in three years. We stopped at my husband’s parent’s house for the first few days (which, being that we’ve been together so long is almost like a second home for me now), revelled in family and cousins, food and drink, and not enough sleep.
On the morning we got up to head to Manitoba, I broke it to the kids there was no WIFI there, and the cell coverage was sketchy. I expected some big freak-out I guess, but whatever magic that little farm holds, they just said ok and asked, ‘HOW MUCH LONGER!?!?!’ for what felt like the hundredth time. They hadn’t been there in three years, but our oldest was gunning to drive the John Deere Gator, and our daughter couldn’t stand her excitement about the new crop of foals, and the barn cats that basically gobbled up the attention. Our four-year-old had no recollection of his time there at 1 year old, but instead replaced what he didn’t know with what he did. ‘THEY HAVE A TRACTOR’.
Leaving no stone un-turned or un-thrown in the river, no horse or cat un-pet, the five of us ran and adventured, and spent the evenings around the table, ready to pass out from all the fresh air and all the blessings of farm life. Even my husband got in on the action by fixing fence boards and throwing straw bales. The kids ate their meals like troopers, and fell asleep just about as deeply as I remembered falling at their age. They skipped down to the barn, trudged a path through a solid foot of muck down to the river, delayed my Uncle’s chore routine by at least 30 minutes with questions and ‘helping’, cleaned stalls, drove the Gator, were so filthy I made them strip down outside, and begged to stay another few days.
We didn’t have the time this go-around to make that happen, but it was so reassuring, so satisfying on a deeply soulful level, to see that my kids saw what I saw as a kid too.
A place you can’t quite put your finger on. A place that isn’t quite yours, but feels like so much of who you are. Somewhere you have never lived, but a place where a part of you will always live.