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A place called home

I stood at the ATM on Capel Street as the afternoon city sailed around me and my old life was so close I could have reached out my hand and touched it. The ghost of me, clip-clopping, latte in hand, in the direction of the river. Or ambling, sleeping sweetness of a baby on my chest, afternoon nap, our afternoon stroll. Or making conversation with my husband that first time of many times walking down that street together.

Something has shifted and she is a ghost now.

How long does it take for a new path to feel like the old familiar one? How many footsteps on the ground underneath before this path it’s yours?

I read somewhere once, the only time you see a place as it really is, is the first time you see it.

I used to wander down the street in Maputo and tried to resurrect the feelings of trepidation and mystery that accompanied the map, the photos in a guide book I looked at before I arrived. I try now to remember how I felt about the silence of this small village after the constant noise of our city street.

I know how I felt, but I can’t feel the feeling anymore.

How long does it take for a place to feel like home? For it not to feel new and strange? For you not to feel like a stranger? For the beauty of it to feel commonplace and the dullness to be invisible? What does it take to stop noticing the quiet or the particular smell of a Mozambican street?

Almost home now. We wander about the garden of the house that is soon to be ours. Still visitors for the moment, but leaving, laden with pears and courgettes and tomatoes. Bounty of the garden, our soon-to-be garden, already bounty.

Almost home now and I am no longer waiting to walk across a courtyard up the stairs and open the door of a 3rd floor apartment. That apartment, home to one small boy and a baby; two boys now in a new home.

I went to a music festival. A revival of an old me with old friends. “Where are you from?” someone asked me. I wanted to say “I don’t know”. I grew up in one place, spent most of my adult life in another, and now moving closer to that first home. But how could this me, the person of twenty years later, still be from that first place? Who am I anyway when all the everyday familiarity has been stripped away?

We moved only a couple of hundred kilometers, with the centres of our world, our boys. But the rest of the world took its time to catch up. I took my time, but here it is, here I am with it, up to speed now with the story of my life.

Something has shifted. I try to sense what it is.

A year. A full cycle. We drive up the hill and in front of us the leaves are turning gold and red and yellow. Again.  Familiar to me. This is what this place looks like at this time of year. I have watched these same trees shed their skins and become reborn.

While I too shed an old skin, greeted autumn as a new friend, then battled through a winter of the new life, tripped into spring and summer with my spring and summer babes, and finally found my way to home.

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