Homeful musings

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Isabel Dubert, Contributing Writer

 

“As much at home as if they’d always danced there.” – Robert Frost, “In the Home Stretch”

Jane Austen once said, “There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.” Though undeniably more inclined to cozy up with hot chocolate and knitting on a Friday night than venture out, I am possibly the University of Dallas student least bound to any home. Growing up in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, I always stood out with my straight blonde hair in a sea of fuzzy blackness. Merely by my different appearance I could never be naturalized, but I have always felt Africa to be my home.

The intriguing concept of home is human; humans are cultural creatures. Our inner home-compass is reflective of our cultural associations with what we call “home.” Being a classics major at UD, I cannot resist sharing the etymology of this word. It ultimately comes from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to settle down.” This implies a particular spot in space which you choose to inhabit. Thus the idea of home naturally carries with it a geographical significance.

Someone recently accused me of being a woman without a country. This struck me as somewhat odd; I’d never thought of it that way. I am not a genuine native of anywhere on earth, but I do indeed have a home. I may not immediately recognize the USA as my homeland, although I am a citizen, but I have never and doubt I will ever feel truly homeless. Home is where those dearest to me are. My mother used to say that home was wherever her father might be. As Emily Dickinson so aptly wrote: “Where Thou art—that—is Home—”. After all, what is home but where you belong? Though I typically refer to myself as African, I do not share a tribal sense of home; I am rooted not in the soil of my ancestors.  For me, my home is “a moveable feast,” in the nature of Hemingway’s Paris.

My home in Mozambique was not as picturesque or idyllic as Theocritus might have wished, but nevertheless, to me Quelimane is the dearest town on earth. I was born there, in that ancient Portuguese slave port built on a malarial swamp, where the Catholic cathedral looms by the river where the bishop blessed the captives in the ships before their dreaded trans-Atlantic crossing. I remember the endless summer days (it is never winter in equatorial Africa) spent with my brother; I remember the tadpole-infested ditches, and the decrepit railroad tracks adjoining the Italian pizzeria (yes, we too have a taste of Roman civilization down in sub-Saharan Africa). This was my home. But my home is more than a mere location on a map.

Because my life is transient, my perception of home is too. There is a continuous sense of adventure and possibility, to think that you’re not tied to any particular city on earth, that you can travel anywhere and see anything and you needn’t ever go back. Whatever some may think, I am not without a home. I am at home wherever I decide to be. As a third-culture-kid I have an endless desire to keep moving, keep learning, keep exploring new cultures, to become a citizen of the world. Despite my love for Mozambique, I would not go back to live there permanently. No, I have moved on. And when I graduate I will be ready to do so again.

John Baillie expresses my feelings well: “For the strong sense I have that this is not my home: For my restless heart which nothing finite can satisfy: I give Thee thanks, O God.”

 

 

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