Suzey Ingold

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There's no place like home

Home has always been somewhat of a complicated concept for me – at least, it’s never been particularly obvious when I’m talking to someone exactly where I’m referring to when I mention “home”. While I was at university, living in Edinburgh, I might talk about “going home” which meant going to see my parents in Aberdeen but then, in turn, would say to them that I was “going home”, back to Edinburgh, whatever coming day. While working and living in London, I’d frequently visit my niece and nephew, kissing them goodbye at the end of the evening and telling them I couldn’t stay over the night because I had to go home. Every time I visit Finland, I talk about going home, even though I’ve never lived there nor do I have a permanent address there. 

Going back to Finland each year always comes with a welcome sense of familiarity

Going back to Finland each year always comes with a welcome sense of familiarity

And now, it seems to have become all the more convoluted. On Wednesday night, I flew back to the U.K. for the first time since moving out to Canada, for a pre-Christmas family visit to avoid the heinous festive flight prices.

“I’m so excited to go home,” I said to my friend as I drummed my fingers off my laptop, waiting for online check-in to open.

“But this is your home,” she protested with a very characteristically-her pout.

And she’s not wrong. I have an apartment in Toronto now, an apartment that, as of Monday, actually has a bed and a rug and some shelves. I have not one, but two jobs to go back to in the city, not to mention any other projects that might crop up in the coming weeks when I return. I have friends there, a boyfriend, a favourite coffee shop, an annual transit pass, and local supermarket.

I don’t know exactly what it is about a place that makes it a home or not a home. I continue to describe myself as being from Manchester even though I left when I was five years old and I barely know my way around. Aberdeen never really felt like home, in part for having always been the English girl in the Scottish town and in part for the fact that my brothers (more or less) never lived there with me, but the familiarity of my parents’ house is always a welcome warmth. Edinburgh became a home as a mark of the beginning of my adult life but a desire to leave came from it very much being the locale of my student experience and student life. London, I’m not sure quite entrenched itself in me enough to be a home. 

Brb, Googling the definition of “home”… Instead of just looking out at Edinburgh behind me © Janine McMeekin

Brb, Googling the definition of “home”… Instead of just looking out at Edinburgh behind me © Janine McMeekin

And if you bring my accent into it? Well, you’d be hard-pushed to figure out where I’m from, with my bizarre mix-mash Edinburgh lilt with something a little English, that has long been mistaken for Canadian or American – now with a few genuine Canadian-isms slipping into the midst.

Toronto is fast growing on me and the two months I’ve spent there feel far longer than they actually are. But that’s not to say that I haven’t missed my other home (or, one of my other homes, perhaps I should say). Stepping through the doors of Glasgow airport yesterday morning, it was the smell of the Scottish air that hit me first – the fresh, early morning breeze as a flurry of familiar accents passed me by. And for all that being here is lovely, I quickly came to realise that my earlier suspicions were true – it was not the place I was sick for, but the people.

It’s no secret that I’m close with my family and for the first time in my entire life, I was not a handy two hours away from at least one member of my immediate family. I’m lucky to live in an age where communication is easy and accessible and a five hour time difference isn’t impossible to navigate, if sometimes a little challenging. In a lot of ways, as much as I miss them, it’s easier being away from my friends – we’re more used to living scattered across counties and, often, too, continents, and keeping in frequent contact through messages and occasional video chat. 

Living away from home, if I can use the word, quickly becomes a measure of the things you value. I didn’t need to be told of how much I loved my family but the stark reminder of the role they play in my life and the connection I have to them has taken me aback a little. 

I spent some time over the summer with my brother and his family in Finland, a trip that frequently included car trips taken to the Moana soundtrack. More than once, myself, my brother and my sister-in-law ended up in tears, while my nephew promptly fell asleep and my niece sang along wholeheartedly, nothing but bemused as to why the grown-up contingent were having a collective emotional breakdown on the way to the supermarket. For myself, about to leave for Canada, the idea of being torn between what you know and those with whom you’re bonded and the adventurous lure of something different and challenging just beyond the horizon hit close to home (if you’ll pardon the phrase). But, as difficult as it can feel at times, as though you’re being pulled in two different directions, it’s just as my sister-in-law said to me recently: you know your way home.

I don’t know quite where my red sparkly slippers would take me if I clicked my heels together and chanted “there’s no place like home” but I can bet that my family would be there – and there’ll always be there, when I need to come home for a bit.

But with all that said… I’ve been home for about a day and, I’ve got to say – I miss Toronto, too.

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