The Heart Is Where Home Is

The plane shudders, as if waking from a bad dream. A blanket of bodies stretches out as far as the eye can see, some sleeping, some speaking softly so as not to disturb the air of intimacy. My sister reads next to me, an incandescent glow from her ipad casting a light that reveals her true age. Still beautiful. I turn to the window, pressing my nose against the ice cold surface. The world beyond the glass shimmers in the darkness, like a Polaroid caught between layers of polycarbonate; soft at the edges and intense at the core as only a Polaroid can be. Second by second, the focal point in the ephemeral image shifts with the plane’s descent into Calgary. I can tell it’s cold outside by the quality of the light, and tighten my coat around me as the chill from the window creeps by degrees into my own warm body.
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She sits bolt upright in the pitch black of the bedroom, and I can tell my sister is wondering where she is. The sliver of light through the basement window does nothing to illuminate the situation for her, and I remain still so as not to startle her awake. The clock on the bedside table ticks off the seconds and I shift ever so slightly. She moves across the bed to hover inches from my face, her pupils open but unseeing. If I keep very still, the veil will leave her eyes and she may remember who and where she is. Or at the very least, that I am not the enemy. I remember this from our growing up years, when we shared the same Peace/Love wallpapered bedroom, the same bed, and I find myself feeling protective of her still.
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“I know you’re talking about me”, our mother calls from the bedroom. And of course she’s right. We’re together because it’s been too long, and because my mother has proclaimed she wants to move – again. Joyce has moved so many times you’d think she was raised in the army. But no, she simply likes change. Craves it actually. My mother’s history of wanton impulsiveness when it comes to life decisions has kept us all wondering who among us will be housing her in our basement one day. But this time seems a little different. My mother must be the only 79-year-old in existence who, instead of insisting that the only way she’ll leave her house is in a box, drops the bombshell that she’s joined the waitlist for an Old Folks Home, Active Living Residence, Elder Care Community—whatever we’re couching them as these days. Joyce often looks like a little bird when she shares shocking pieces of information with her grown up children. Her round blue eyes blinkblinkblink as she waits for the penny to drop. The ensuing caucophany of ‘what about your art school, your garden, your ducks, your view, your friends, your bank account, your dog’, doesn’t seem to faze her. “I’ve thought this one through”, she confidently tells us, “and besides, its a waitlist and I’m not at the top, I’m #2”. More protests. Blinkblinkblink.
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I am the sum of my parts. My brothers are my genetic bookends, one older, one younger. We rarely talk but I know they would snatch me from a burning building with perhaps only a second thought. My three younger sisters—like Disney characters in that they are rendered with flawed perfection—are full of forgiveness and often doing rather heroic things in my opinion. My friends are the same. Angry Sue wants to change the world one rescued dog at a time and relishes going through my garbage searching for Recycling Infractions. Madelaine’s beauty is most reflected in her 16-year-old daughter, who writes music that makes me weep and has a depth beyond her years. My friend Judith and I travelled through our childhood, adolescence and adulthood together, in our own version of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. After years of flirting with commitment, she finally married into a family that eerily resembles mine, right down to the dog (she denies this of course). Cynthia, aka Cinammon Lance, is one of the funniest people I have ever known, which I think is partly to do with the fact that she lives with my brother where a sense of humour is not optional. These beloved friends and so many others are all cogs in my wheel, links in my chain, and I find when I’m away from them for too long, I don’t run so well. It’s not true that home is where the heart is because my heart is in so many places, like that travelling gnome. Maybe whoever said that, means that home is inside us, and we take it wherever we go. I like that idea.
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It’s cold in this basement, and under the feather duvet, I’ve created a cocoon I’m reluctant to emerge from. In Mexico I sleep on top of the sheets, the overhead fan whispering across my moist skin, like a lover. Not this morning. No whispering. No lover. Just the lure of my family upstairs.
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Sisters

20 thoughts on “The Heart Is Where Home Is

  1. My dear Alison, this is a beautiful piece…as another who takes her heart and home with her, wherever she goes, your words resonate deeply…it also helps that I love you and your whole big bountiful family! Thanks for weiting this! Love Mary

  2. Brilliant Alison! Love your reflections of family and friends. I love your mom’s spirit – still surprising at 79!

  3. Beautifully written Alison; thank you for the heartfelt sharing! Family and friends truly bring so much to our lives.

  4. Great piece. I can visualize everything so clearly (except me going through garbage, can’t imagine that) and feel it deeply. You really have a way with words my friend. Keep it up.

  5. My sister picture hangs in the stairwell where I can sip my tea, glance at it and know I am part of a tribe that has each other’s backs, no matter what. Once again, your blog made me laugh, tear up and look at the everyday in a new way. Boosita Brown Cheeks

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