In a bout of chronic bad timing, I feel like I’m starting to come down with some form of flu variant. Pressure at the back of my throat, occasional throbbing right ear, vague dizziness. It’s fine, I have drugs. I’m not here to complain (for once). I more wanted to remark that whenever I start to feel unwell, my mind ticks back to thoughts of being at home. I recall my old blue bedroom with the cutesy carousel curtains. I’m reminded of comforts and that inimitable feeling of safety in being taken care of.
In the past four and a half years, it’s been rare for homesickness to rear its head. It’s still not the case this time either. That being said, it’s possible to cast your mind back and be appreciative of what you had without pangs of regret setting in. For me, a big part of what I enjoyed came from ritual. Little conventions that gave me structure, familiarity, security. Today, couched in mental convalescence, I recalled a two things I do miss from being home.
First up, grocery shopping with my mum. There was something both cathartic and fun about the experience. No matter what age, I loved getting to drive the cart. It was fun to check how each store’s trolleys handled (except those shit ones that for some cursed reason had a singular wheel that got stuck). One important detail to note is that money was always off the table. I wasn’t one of the main household providers, so I didn’t pay for a thing. It’s not like I got to demand everything I wanted, but I got to window shop and sometimes open said window to grasp my desires firsthand.
The aisles held an array of colours and shapes. Food being one of my favourite things (past, present and future tense), trying new varieties and flavours was a grand experiment. Mum would send me on missions to pick up certain items, so I got to zip around and accomplish tasks. Sometimes I’d get to request all new food to fold into the routine. Perhaps I’d get to search through produce for perfect looking fruit. Mum and I would play the guessing game at the register about the final total. Oh, and if it was a shopping night you could be damn sure that we’d pick up a rotisserie chicken, bread rolls and coleslaw for an easy dinner.
That conveniently segued into the next one. Family dinners. I had two older brothers (seven and nine years, respectively) and, for the most part, conversation would be blood-from-a-stone. How were our days? Fine. How was school? Fine. What did our parents expect? Aside from that, there was still conversation. We’d talk about movies or TV we’d seen. I’d hear about my brothers’ experiences at school (I can still remember having my mind blown by my brother talking about CD Rom technology). It forced us to spend time with each other, which was something I think we all secretly appreciated. Once again, there was ritual, structure and inherent comfort. We didn’t lack for our needs. We were fortunate to always have food on the table.
Our parents gave us responsibilities in stages. Tasks to be accomplished were setting the table, clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, and taking care of pots & pans/condiments. The three of us would take turns. There’d be arguments and fights, sure, but the work would get done. Mum was a good cook and we’d be encouraged at helping out with the meal for lenience in the chore department. Maybe if we made a salad, we wouldn’t have to be on pots & pans (the worst and most arduous job). As my brothers aged, they both took interest in cooking. One of my brothers eventually went on to become a chef. Being the little brother, if they thought cooking was cool, of course I wanted in too.
I guess the unifying factor is that both experiences taught me important life skills. In shopping I learned all about nutrition, fiscal responsibility and being critical of what I purchase. Evening dinners taught me meal prep, cleaning up after myself and the joy of a table full of people. Really, they were important stepping stones in how to adult. While on one hand they’re things I miss about being at home, they also helped form the blueprint of what I’d like my home life to be.