What is it like to be brought up in the same city that surrounded the hospital that you were born in?
Does it make you feel grounded, is it comforting to know the city like the lines on your palm?
How about if you can visit the same house which you took your first steps in?
Quite often, these are questions I am curious about. I am curious about a lot of things which influence a person’s life and perhaps more so how people might resist or adopt things which aren’t the obvious choice – whatever that is…
I was born in a town I hold no sentiment towards. There is nothing wrong with the city, I was just too young to remember anything. Last summer I visited the city, curious to see whether it was the physical space that would evoke memory – or whether I was just making the link between photos and the actual place. I still don’t really know for the most part, but it definitely did evoke something.
There was a bridge in a large park close to our old house. It stood over a stream which had trailing willow trees either side. This visit it was still white and the paint crackled, but underneath was beautifully overgrown. How could a handful of pictures and accounts from parents make this bridge which I remember only through pictures become the one tangible thing I base my very young years on?
I know we lived in a semi-detached house in a town just north of London, I know we had a very fluffy dog and I know the town had a lot of geese. Something about this bridge was significant, perhaps it was because it was the only thing from the pictures which remained unchanged in its physicality apart from some decay. There were other places in other pictures but they had been retouched and rebuilt. The bridge, like me – was still in its original form but older.
I don’t suggest that either moving away or staying connected with the city you were born in is better. But I do think having sentiment which lies in multiple cities does alter your sense of place. My sentiment lies in about five, perhaps 6 cities, with the new inclusion of Manchester in the last two years. They are different spaces which inspire different parts of me.
Some very important years were spent in the Netherlands, forming some strong friendships with others who came to find this tiny country their home. It really was home – and to some degree it still is. A house or flat is tangible, I’ve lived in about twelve of those – but certainly not all of them were home.
Home is not always singular, nor is it always tangible. It’s possible to find home in spaces and people.