Home: a Soundscape, a Story, a Sentence
1. Sounds of home
On sunny days: the click-snap of wood expanding. Birds singing. Bees flying – thud – against windowpanes. On rainy days: the tap-tap-tap of rain getting in. The drip-drop of it splashing into saucepans. On weekdays: alarms on snooze, toothbrushes clinking, ‘has anybody seen my bag?’, the key scraping in the back-door lock. On holidays: the rumbling of suitcase wheels on the wooden floor. After long days: my mum singing softly as she runs a bath, her voice mixed in with foaming water. On birthdays: whispers in the kitchen as candles for the-cake-we-all-know-about-anyway are lit. On all these days: the tick that means the kettle’s boiled, the pouring out of tea.
2. A story
One morning, the month before my sister Emilie moved to Glasgow, the two of us ended up alone in the house, tidying up after breakfast. This was a rainy day in late July and we were still walking about in our pyjamas even though it was nearly 11am.
She put on a load of laundry (pants, t-shirts, tights) and washed the dishes from last night’s dinner (teacups, plates, spoons). I hoovered down the stairs (in the kitchen, the living-room, the bedrooms) and dusted all the surfaces in the lounge (the piano, the coffee-table, the TV). And the whole time we were tidying we were also singing: loudly, and at the same time as each other. Sometimes we sang different songs, our words overlapping. Sometimes we sang the same song, but a few lines apart. Songs from Moulin Rouge. Songs by the Beatles. Songs from Les Misérables. Songs we’d learned at Sunday School. We were singing, without too much regard for each other’s song, just as a way to pass the time.
It was halfway through belting out ‘Oom-pah-pah! Oom-pah-pah!’ that it kind of struck me: she is moving out. Emilie, my big sister, is moving out. And that this – this moment here of loud and unmelodious singing (together, but also apart) – this might be the last of its kind.
It wasn’t a grand or sentimental realisation. I didn’t burst into tears. I didn’t run through to her to tell her how much she’s always meant to me and I hoped she'd be happy and, really, wasn’t it funny how singing loudly and unselfconsciously is something we – me, her and our little brother – always seem to have done together and how strange that this house where we’ve grown up and whispered secrets to each other at night when we were little was no longer going to be her home. That one day quite soon, she’d be coming back here as a visitor. And maybe one day she’d start to knock at the door.
No. I didn't do any of that. It was just a quiet 'noticing'. I stayed right where I was: there in the hall, with tangled hair and toast crumbs stuck to my bare feet, winding up the cord for the hoover. But is struck me: ‘Huh. That’s kind of sad’.
Home is – I think – feeling comfortable. Comfortable enough to sing without caring.
3. Home is...
Home is the land of odd socks.
It’s animals my Gran’s painted on rocks.
It’s watching, every day, as the sun sets over the River Clyde and still being amazed.
Home is the sound of my dad passing wind into the sofa when he thinks no one’s listening.
It’s putting family-discussions on hold to make a fresh pot of tea.
Home is the ‘how-much-have-I-grown?’ marks etched into our kitchen wall.
Home is where your free to talk about things like:
- empathy versus sympathy,
- the Romantic notion of the Sublime,
- the terrifying loneliness of a universe without God,
- the root of words,
- the words we like,
- the books and books and books we’ll never get round to reading, ‘but still...’
It’s where you can talk for hours and hours – sitting on the work surface, curled on the sofa, lazing in the garden, washing up the dishes – it’s where you can talk ‘for real’ and no one calls you a ‘snob’ or ‘deep’.
Home is sinking into the sofa after a long day at work.
It’s where your worst-self shows its face. Where bad moods bubble over. Where faking-it doesn’t work. Home is where someone’s brave enough – someone cares enough – to tell you: ‘snap out of it’ or ‘I don’t think that’s such a good idea’.
Home is still laughing at the same old stories. It’s where stupid things you did once are never forgotten.
Home is feeling comfortable enough to say: ‘your feet stink’, ‘I think you need a haircut’, ‘look how much earwax came out this time’.
It’s drinking orange juice straight from the carton and putting it back in the fridge.