As Thanksgiving approaches, that “homey”est of all American holidays, with its Norman Rockwell-esque focus on food and cozy family scenes, it’s impossible not to think of “home.” We’ve spoken quite a bit about home as a concept – and that home has become something that’s not fixed in a particular place, for us. This goes against what people expect, with having a place to call “home.” You expect that, even if you move from one house to another, there will be some one place – where your family lives, perhaps, or where you regularly attend church, where you have the largest collection of “stuff” – that is “home” to you. For us, this stopped being the case, probably after three years of living in Glasgow, and while we’re happy to be back with friends and family members, we’ve struggled with the transition, and have been mentally homeless ever since.
Our recent trip to Glasgow put us in the basic area that was home almost a year and a half ago. Going back to visit was … oddly like and unlike coming home. We spent time and had meals with as many of our friends as were in the city, and knew where we were going when we were wandering about. While we warmly reminisced, enjoyed the odd pockets of free time and all the city had to offer, we realized early on that Glasgow isn’t quite “home” any more – it is merely a place where many friends happen to live, and which we know well in our memories. We missed seeing a few dear friends, because their work took them to Belfast or London — which, for too many of our friends, is the reality; a life split in between their homes, and their jobs. Had we stayed in the UK, this likely would have been the way things were for us, in order to keep afloat financially. Missing these friends confirmed again for us that we were right in not trying to make Glasgow “home.” Having no flat there anymore, and no job, it now is merely a beloved piece of our history… But, now what?
After Glasgow, we stayed for a few days in Iceland during this trip, which has never been home to us, though we’ve spent good days there. D. had a tenuous possibility of a job there, though, so this time we considered the place from the point of view of homesteaders — to decide if we’d be able to dig in and make Iceland our home. We truly love it there, severe, volcano-blasted countryside, treeless tundra and all – but looking through the eyes of those who would be learning a new language and getting along without much of a vegetarian community, we’ve concluded that it’s more of a place to visit than to stay. Being flexible and resourceful, we could settle in, and would probably find ourselves making it home eventually, but we’re not content to settle… and so the mental flailing about continues.
So much of the concept of home is wrapped up in people, and activities, more than simply the place those happen to take place. Attending the chapel concerts, singing with the shape note group, drifting through parks and museums and having coffee with choir members reminded us again that for someplace to be a home, we need to be part of a vibrant artistic community – to engage in making beauty in a variety of ways, especially with our hands and with our voices as part of a group. Just with that small piece of the puzzle in hand, we know what’s missing from our lives in California — and we know what we’ll be looking for as we turn our thoughts toward home in the future.
In the meantime, we’ve confirmed that where we are right now is the best choice for us in the present, where we can save comfortably and pay down those school bills, and plan ahead for what’s next. It’s hard not to leap up and head for the next adventure, but with the idea that adventure is what where we find it, we’re keeping our eyes open.
Meanwhile, holiday baking has started up its long cold engines. We began with the easy stuff — nuts. We’ve rhapsodized before about the loveliness of having Dixon nearby with all of its almonds, but now we have a friend with a beau who has his own walnut orchard – score! This past weekend, we picked a leisurely nine pounds of walnuts and brought them home to freeze in preparation for nut brittle.
We’ve gleefully embraced the opportunity to commemorate the Hanukkah holiday with Thanksgiving, the holiday combo that apparently comes around only once every 77,000 years, and we’re looking forward to our sweet potato and carrot latkes our cranberry apple sauce, and reprising some favorites like mac and cheese kugel and sweet potato custard. T’s mum is attempting challah – vegan challah, which will be interesting, since the base recipe is like brioche, which is an egg bread. The cardamom apple almond cake will be a snap, though, since it’s just a matter of adding a new spiece. Our pumpkin pies may have caraway and rye in the crust! We’re going to also attempt a cardamom coconut milk pudding, but that’s still in the works… Lots of experimental food going on, which is what it’s all about.
For those who celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah. May gathering with your family ground you in what really matters, and may you have a taste of home this week.
( Recipes (if anything turns out) to follow!)
-D & T