Home is Where you Hang Your Head

Groucho Marx said that.  What a big word: home.

Is it where you hang your hat, always changing?  Where the heart is, always there beating?  Or is it just a place you receive mail?  I say that home is the place where you’re not obligated to wear pants.

Sitting in a pub the other night, a friendly Brit asks me if I’m from Vancouver.  I say that I’m not.  “Where do you call home then?”  The question hung with me for the rest of the night and well into this post.

Maybe we have a conflict of questions here.  Maybe being from somewhere isn’t the same things as home itself.  Is home temporary and origins permanent?  For a hugely mobile society, the question of home for Canadians is and ongoing.

To reveal some of my inner gypsy, I’m currently living in my 44th home.  Seven provinces, five different countries, and a scattering of towns and cities, streets and apartments.  I may be the extreme, but most people I know are from somewhere else.  So if home isn’t just where you’re from, what is it?

Vancouver is not full of Vancouverites.  We all know this.  Almost half of the city isn’t born in Canada and my guess is that a quarter is from another town or city (Stats Canada doesn’t offer stats on Canadian migration).  That means that only 1 in 4 Vancouverites are from Vancouver!  I’m fairly certain Vancouver resembles other major cities in Canada like Toronto and Montreal.  So if 75% of a city is from somewhere else, how does the concept of home fit into the idea of community?

I don’t often quote popes, but old John Paul II had a good one: “…A community needs a soul if it is to become a true home for human beings. You, the people must get it this soul.”  Yes, JP2, home is people.  And then Herman Hesse says home isn’t really a place, but that “one never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time.”  And then Jerry Garcia told us that he was “…I’m a going home, woah woah baby, that’s where I belong.”

Belonging.  Residence.  Identity. Mortgage.

I even know a guy I know once told his fiancée/wife (it was in the process of one becoming the other) that she was his home.

So when you go home tonight, does it feel like home?  When you leave your city for the weekend, are you returning to a place where you pay rent, or are you going home?