I have a plaque in my house that I’ve had for a number of years. It’s a square ceramic plaque that hangs on the wall and has the saying “Home is not a place, it is people” inscribed on it.
We moved a fair bit during the period from 2001 to 2012. From 2001 to 2006 alone we moved 5 times. It was always within a 2km radius though and the boys never changed schools so it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. The moves were always to a bigger place or a better place so they were happy moves. Up until the 2010 move after the ending of my marriage and the sale of our house that is – but even that was a “good” move really; a divorce may be hard but when it’s the best decision it is a good thing.
The tradition with the plaque was that it was always the last thing down in the old place and the first thing up in the new place. A small tradition but it was something that was important to me. I grew up moving often and having consistency is something that I know first-hand helps you feel like you’re “home” when home keeps being someplace different. On moving day, the plaque would stay up as we emptied the house and packed the moving truck… I would take it down from the wall in the empty abode and carry it with me, in my car, to our new place. There, before we moved the furniture and boxes in, I would toss a nail in the wall and up would go the plaque. To me, it was symbolic that no matter how different the place felt, it was home…the kids could see that plaque and know that there was continuity and consistency. That poor plaque was almost knocked off and had more than a couple close calls as it was battered by furniture and people moving but it always made it.
When I moved into the little suite that was for just Connery and I in late January 2012 it was very hard to hang up that plaque. Willie had just moved in with his Dad and Christopher and Ben had moved into a basement suite together the same day that Connery and I moved. I felt like my entire life had fallen apart. We were just coming off of 2 months of dealing with Willie’s mental illness and while he was finally out of the hospital, it was clear he wasn’t better and we were struggling to find him help while watching him give up. The move was hard physically and emotionally. I had no one helping other than myself and Christopher and Ben and it was a long day – moving them first in the morning then Connery and mine belongings in the afternoon. It had snowed the night before; we were all just exhausted and worn out from the previous couple of months. The last thing I felt like doing was hanging up that plaque. But I did. I did it because Connery still needed that. Even though all of his brothers had moved out and he didn’t really understand anything that was happening, he needed that; and so did I in a way.
We had no idea that 10 days later Willie would commit suicide and our lives would be altered forever.
A few months later when I left to move to Victoria I took that plaque down, the last thing to come down as I was clearing out the suite that Connery and I had shared for just a few months. It was so painful to take that down…the anger I felt that no matter where I went, it would mean nothing to me was palpable. I put it in my car and left it there until almost 5 weeks later when I moved into my new apartment in Victoria, where it was hung on the wall, the first thing in the apartment. As I hung it, I struggled with the decision. Over that first week I put up and took down every picture that I had brought from my old life. The memories they held were too painful to have them up. They felt “wrong” somehow; from such a different life that they just couldn’t exist here. So they are down and in a tub under the bed. I have finally brought a few pictures of the boys out and have them displayed but even they are many times conflicted in my mind over whether I want them out or not.
Now, just a little over a year later and I have decided to remove the plaque. It was hanging in my entry way and every time I came home I would see it first thing as I entered the apartment. It would almost mock me with the glaring betrayal of my life now versus what I have lost and the hurt became too much.
The inscription of “Home is not a place, it is people” screams to me that my reality now is that I have no Home based on that. My people are scattered, no longer close and one lost forever. As much as I love this apartment it lacks a feeling of Home for me – a feeling I don’t know if I’ll ever have again. So the plaque goes into the tub with the other pictures, a part of a different life.