I don’t own a home. I have been renting apartments or houses since I moved out of my parents’ home the second time. All of my “home messages” are conveyed by portable or intangible objects. Well, two animate and highly tangible objects come to mind first: the cats.
The current iteration of home-cats are a skinny orange rescue with a clipped right ear and a hoarse chirp. The second is a pear-shaped tabby, rescued from our nasturtium pot, with a beautiful set of facial markings, an improbable Biblical name and a deplorable habit of nipping to show his affection. We brought both of them with us from California, riding sullenly in the back of a Toyota Corolla for a week.
There are several boxes of books that have gone with us everywhere. My boxes contain some books that I have had since I was very young including: the Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Dragonriders of Pern and a few others. I was, as you can see, a fanciful child. Later additions include: Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, H.P. Lovecraft, Terry Pratchett and a few reference books, such as the yellow thesaurus given to me by my grandmother when I went to college and the battered pale green pamphlet inherited from my brother on writing reference papers. Whenever I pull these books from the moving boxes, I immediately feel something unclench just a little and my new living space feels just a little more safe.
My computer also forms part of my feeling of home and security. Not the specific box itself but rather its contents or its ability to connect me to my online life and friends. My fiction and poetry and essays and photos are all backed up onto a 1T portable hard drive that fits in my back pocket. Once I can access those, I feel more at home in my own skin. Familiar faces and scenes and characters can then swirl around my head again.
I have a series of photos mounted onto foam-core, taken by my friend Karen. They are scenes of California, New Mexico and Minnesota. They are all connected by shades of orange and blue and are a dreamy focal point for my office walls. They have been accompanying the photos of my two best friends for years now.
The last and most animate message of home for me is my husband. After 25 years of co-habitation, co-cat-ownership and mingled libraries, he is the most important part of being home. The sound of his snore can make any hotel room or tent a home instantly. When lying beside him on some bed, our two cats arranged around or on top of us, I am instantly home.