Home. What does it mean? My mother asked me if I was coming “home” because the Canadian government requested its citizens to return home as soon as possible, or face being stuck abroad. Several friends have asked the same question. But what if the home you once knew no longer exists?
Just last month I was in Toronto, emptying the Pape Village apartment I had known and loved for nearly five years of all my possessions. My 11-year marriage was over, and what I called “home” was packed up into boxes. In an act of self-preservation, I flew away, to a small white house with a lemon tree in Galicia, Spain.
My other home, my parents’ house, no longer exists. In December, they moved into an apartment building filled with other seniors, the last place someone who could possibly be infected with coronavirus should hang their hat.
When told to self-isolate, to stay inside, to go home – we assume everyone has such a place. We have begun to discuss the simple fact that this isn’t always the case. Home may not be safe, home may not exist, home may be a refugee camp.
I know I am one of the lucky ones. Even though this house in Galicia doesn’t always feel like “home” – I am safe. I have E.U. citizenship (thanks to my former Italian husband) and full medical coverage. But I am not hunkering down with family or friends to see out what could be at least 11 more days of a lockdown. Except for the stray cats who come for food and cushioned patio chairs, I am alone. Utterly alone.
Today, that really hit home. Especially when I heard that Italy had extended its lockdown and Spain would likely do the same. This situation could last for months, people were saying, well into summer. I rifled through my summer clothes – sundresses, bathing suit, sandals. Would I be wearing these things alone? In my yard? I tried not to cry, not to long for home, any home, where there would be people I loved who loved me, where we’d sit down together at the kitchen table and ask each other to pass the salt.
As I write this, the town’s residents have opened their windows and gone onto their balconies, clapping and cheering “Bravo!” for the nation’s healthcare workers. Every night at 8:00, this show of appreciation gets louder and louder. Tonight people bang pots, blare music.
Tonight, I decide to join them, clapping softly. I’m not sure how I feel about what started as a state-encouraged public display of appreciation, but it feels like a way to connect to something bigger than the confines of my house right now. I clap a little louder, scanning the balconies and windows of the town below, drawn to the light.