Where are you from?
Twice last week I was asked by a shop assistants where I was from. It went something like this:
SA: Where are you from?
Me: I live in Newcastle.
SA: You’re a southerner. I can hear it! I’m a southerner!
Me: Where are you from?
SA: Letchworth Hertfordshire.
Husband: I lived there!
SA: I don’t believe you! You’re lying!
There then ensued a conversation where my husband, from Annfield Plain, an ex-mining village near Stanley Co. Durham, tried to prove he had lived in Letchworth. If only we had with us those place mats, with the picture of Letchworth Methodist Church on that they gave him as a leaving present! It might have acted like a Letchworth passport proof of having lived there. Who else would have pictures of Letchworth on their place mats?! Ironically this man thought he had a connection with me, through place because of what he detected in my accent, but actually it was my husband who he didn’t expect to connect place with, that he actually had the real connection with.
I write this blog as someone who holds place very differently to my once Letchworth living husband. He connects with the North East, as his home, his people and the place is very very important to him. I have no such understanding of a geographical place because I have lived in many places. Twenty two different houses in fourteen different towns and cities. However, I do connect to place. I know what it’s like to move house and feel dislocated in the place you are living, and when you feel ‘other’ all the time. You don’t have to move house, but also moving school, or going to university, changing your job, or losing your place of work. So for me place is very much connected with emotions, and how I feel about a place, more than the specifics of geography.
I know what it’s like to feel like a place is home. For me, that’s about safety, freedom to be, joy and laughter shared with others, and yes a cosy internal glow that I’m finding difficult to describe. Do you know what I mean? Home what does it mean for you?
The bible talks a lot about ‘home’ in the stories of people across many many generations, who long for a home, then have a home, lose their home, and are carried far away from home, return home, are enslaved, search for a new home, lose their home, make their home elsewhere, return home.
I wonder what makes a place home for you? Is it geographical, or like me bound up with emotions? Do bricks and mortar matter, or is it the feeling we associate with it?
As we go back to places we haven’t been because of the pandemic, some will have a huge sense of recovering what was lost by not being in that place, so what is it that you think you are recovering?
If you journal I wonder if you might journal around what places matter to you? And why?
When people die the Christian faith talks about people ‘returning home’, that is we are truly and fully at home when we are in unencumbered relationship with God. Then we are home.