Sourin had this lovely post on what our homes mean to us. Without a doubt, coming home after a long day or after a long trip is one of those experiences that each of us cherishes.
And, as I've been discovering to my surprise, this feeling (for want of a better word) is not limited to grown-ups. It catches children too, and it catches them young.
Three years ago, after a week-long cruise and a couple of days in balmy Miami, we came home. As we walked in the door, N, then two-and-a-half, walked around the house and greeted each room like he was greeting an old friend ("hi! dining room, hi! living room") with a mixture of recognition and delight.
Finally, he, who had been happily chowing down pasta, chicken nuggets and pbj sandwiches for ten days, made his way into the kitchen, looked up at me and asked, "Mama, can we eat bisi bele baath?"
Although we had been on many trips before, this was the first time he was not confused about where he was when we came home.
Over the past ten months, however, the equation has gotten a little bit more complicated. The first time we went on an extended trip out of Bangalore after we moved here, when it was time to go home, N thought we were going back to Virginia. Now he understands that we'll be coming back to Bangalore whenever we go out of town, but the fact that he is not at "home" is something that is constantly at the back of his mind.
He loves living in Bangalore for many reasons, the most important of which is that he has his grandparents, uncles and aunts here.
But he still misses his room and all his toys (even though we brought them all here - the problem is he wants to play with his toys in his room). He pores over old photographs looking for familiar things. He misses his friends and neighbors and the neighbors' pets.
The other day, out of the blue, he wanted to know where his bathroom was "at home". We were standing in his room here. I pointed in the direction of the bathroom and said, "right there". No, he wanted to know where his bathroom was in Virginia. It is amazing what issues and questions those little brains are mulling over.
Even though he has been remarkable in understanding and dealing with our new living arrangements (as we keep hearing, "children are resilient, they'll adjust to anything"), a couple of times (usually when he's exhausted) something has triggered a flood of memories accompanied by a flood of tears.
Three days after the last episode, he asked me if I wanted to know why he was missing home so much. He took me to his wall map of the US and pointed to the legend in the bottom right hand corner. It said "United States". I was floored.
When do children start getting attached to something other than a person or a thing? When we were watching The Quiet American (with a lot of fast forwarding, I had to watch it again later), he was repeatedly asking if the Americans were winning and was quite worried. How do they even develop this sense of attachment to a place or to a country, enough to miss it for almost a year after they've seen it last?
Obviously, to him, home is not just a place you live in, or come back to everyday, or where you can put your feet up and relax. He has all of that here, in Bangalore. To him, home is something more.
Now the question is, when we go back "home", will he miss Bangalore the same way that he misses Virginia now?