I made an ignoble exit from my last home. My last look back was at a dirty duvet dangling from the balcony beneath mine, we had tried (and failed) to throw it down from the window. The contents of my kitchen were scattered on the pavement outside, waiting to be picked over by passersby. I was carrying two suitcases, packed so fast I could barely remember what was in them. And when I arrived in Brazil, what I had chosen to bring and I why I had chosen it, was a mystery to me.
Truth is I had run out of time. Time ticked away as the contents of my flat disappeared around me, like the sand trickling out of a timer, I ran out of time. Around me, the furniture was collected by friends and recycling companies, the books half packed in boxes were taken by removal men. Memories stored in another carton, cried over as I read about unrequited love, broken hearts and forgotten friends. The possessions that created my home dripped away, until it was just us left sat in an empty flat tangled up in the dirty duvet preparing for me to leave to make a new home.
There were many things it was hard to leave behind, but I when I arrived, surprisingly, I mourned the plates most. Crying over the crockery. Sobbing over the spoons I had discarded. Dreaming of the green tiled table, a Brighton boot sale bargain, also left behind, taken by a stranger to make their home. I arrived in Brazil to an empty flat. Only a bed, me, two suitcases and a trail of possessions strewn behind me across Brighton. My home, 5000 miles away.
I keep going to use a large yellow plastic bowl that I had in the UK, for some reason it is this item that my brain has decided must be in Brazil with me. A yellow plastic bowl bought from the Pound Shop. More than once I have gone to the cupboard to find this bowl only to remember, I didn’t bring it, it´s not here, someone else has it. Would a plastic yellow bowl feel like home?
So where do you start? How to create a home? What to buy to make a home? I thought about this as I negotiated with the school about how to support the new staff arriving this year. What would I want to make me feel at home? What did I wish had been in that empty flat? What makes me feel at home now?
After the shock of arrival had worn off, I was surprised how quickly I got over the loss and leaving of my possessions. I bought new plates, drank from my new mugs. What made my home, I realised, were connections. It might be different for other people but the priority for me was to connect. The first thing I wanted was an internet connection. Luddites may deride my reliance on technology, but for me it´s not the ability to play Angry Birds that was important but to connect to home, friends and family.
My darling mother struggles with technology, clinging to old ways of staying in touch, just about handling sending texts or Skyping (although I’m pretty sure she believes Mr Skype monitors our calls and cuts us off when he gets bored of our conversation). I nag her to use the internet more because I feel I have been able to have such a regular and wonderful connection with my friends, to share so much of this new life, it’s almost as good as having them with me. But for Mother, labouring over opening emails and phone calls, much of this new life is a mystery. When she does hear about it, it comes in such great waves I think it’s overwhelming; Bolivia, Argentina, Rio, Brazil…
My home is created by the network of love and care that cocoons me from the important people in my life. I needed this Internet connection to the ones I left behind, but over my time here, new magic has happened. Through Twitter I also gained a network of strangers who became supportive friends (I’ve met some of them in real life too now). In Brazil I developed a social world that has entertained me, helped me, made me laugh, hugged me when I cried and took me on amazing journeys. I also travelled alone and met new friends from around the world, and again the Internet helped me hold on to these people and I have plans to meet and travel with them again.
My home is not about cups or plates, or even that safely stored box of letters, cards, photos and memories in the UK. My home is made by people. So now, my friends laugh at me because as soon as I arrive anywhere I seek out the Wi-Fi and make sure I’m connected. I need a connection with the people I know to make my home. I share my new adventures with my old friends (and I know it must get boring and annoying ‘Luci is on holiday AGAIN!’) but I need to share it to make it real. Most of the time I’m still so shocked that I am here, that I was able to tumble out of that flat in Brighton with the dirty duvets and tables and plates. Still shocked that I wasn’t left behind too, in crumpled heap on the streets of Brighton, hoping to be collected by passersby. I have to share it; it is just me pinching myself to make sure this is really happening.
I didn’t need that Brighton flat full of things to prop me up as much as I thought. And although I still love shopping and buying and spending and I have created a new wall of possessions that I occasionally use to hide behind and fortify my castle. In leaving most of it behind I was able to focus on the real things that make my home, my connections to the people around me. Even though I see myself a solitary being at times, I have been able to recognise the importance of my connections. I appreciate you; I need you, thank you all. Without you I’d be homeless.