Home (or On Permanence)

“Home is elusive,” per the Day 1 assignment of Photo 101. The featured image is the view from my office. I have been looking out on these buildings for 11 years. Over these 11 years, I have been in four different offices but all along the same corridor. This view is my favorite view yet.

I reflected throughout the day on that statement: “Home is elusive.” I had to look up the definition of home: (n) the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. I have a wonderful place where I live as a member of a beautiful little family. But, the concept that “home is elusive,” drew out something else that I have been exploring lately. Something not quite shiny and bright. Something that I perhaps wish was not so.

Maybe home is elusive because permanence is elusive. When we first moved into our current fairy tale cottage of a home, our master bedroom was arranged in a way where you saw about eight or ten of our approximately thirty very old very tall trees. We did not have blinds for the first two years because we did not need them from that vantage point. Every morning and every night our son, who was a toddler then, would look on these majestic trees, rooted still and a permanent sight for us. He told us after a year or so of what must have become a ritual for him that his guardian angel was a tree, a tall and strong one. He had started to struggle with the concept of death and this is how he consoled himself.

Is love permanent? The love that binds together a family or a household, perhaps that is the permanence the definition of home refers to. There is love in every family even in the worst of circumstances.

When we first moved to the United States in 1984, we packed pretty light. I remember people coming to our apartment in Bogota. I assume the advertisement was something like: “Leaving the country! Everything must go!” I remember mothers going into my bedroom to pick through my toys. My mother suggested I stay away, that it would be too hard. I got to take one toy with me: a Barbie Skipper doll. That doll, for better or worse, became my security object from there on out. I collected Barbies. I was crazy for Barbies as a kid and even older.

I remember driving at night in the back seat of my aunt’s car in Oklahoma City. I remember seeing the big American houses with big front lawns and porch lights. I would see soft yellow lights inside the houses and I would think, “They are happy in there. If I was in there, I would be happy too.”

The thing with Barbies was that I could dress them up, pose them perfectly, and they would not move. I would line them up in my Barbie closet, adjusting their outfits, their stances, their furniture in their house, their pool, their car, all their things, and just sit down and admire how everything was just right. I would close the door and come back later, and they were just the same as I had last left them.

Today, when I was considering the elusiveness of home and the idea of permanence, I realized that my office is my grown up Barbie closet. It feels so safe to me because all its physical aspects are under my dominion. It gives me a sense of false permanence. Meanwhile, at my real home, I have real live baby dolls who pull the house down between the hours of 9 and 5 p.m. And, that house is full of love.



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