Home to me is a place to live and spend our spare time and sleep at night. It is not a possession or a showcase to impress neighbours, friends and family.
During my lifetime, I have lived in more than thirty four homes. Some small, some large. I never thought that they were mine. They were somewhere that was safe, secure, big enough for the family. As I travelled around the world, I have discovered that in many cultures, home can be much smaller that what is considered normal in Australia or other western countries. In Japan, for instance, their homes are very small. Their living room doubles as the bedroom. The floors are made of tatami which is made from straw with woven straw cover. It is quite spongy. In the evening the folding table and low chairs are folded up and their mattresses which role up are taken out of a cupboard and laid on the floor. In the morning they are rolled up again and the room prepared for the day activities. It saves so much space – and cost. In many Indonesian homes, it is the normal habit for the younger children sleep with the parents and then when they get older, children sleep three or even four to a bed. Indonesian children do not like sleeping alone. Some orphanages are criticised when visitors come by and see the children sleeping in beds together. They often want to donate bunk beds for the children and get upset when their donation is refused.
During my lifetime – so far – occupying a house (be that an apartment, rental house or a house that we bought and had a mortgage to pay), has often been a challenge. This has often been when we moved from one country to a new one. We usually had to leave furniture behind and get rid of a lot of our possessions so we arrived with basic things and very little money to go out and buy the things which are essential for living. If we were lucky we managed to have some things shipped but they didn’t arrive until a later date. But these things were what made our home. For me they were art works and books, for the children maybe some toys or other special things they liked.
When we travelled overseas we mostly travelled by ship. In those days around the sixties and seventies, it was cheaper than flying. It also gave us some time for my husband, Paul to go ahead and fine a place for us to live and to settle into his new job.
Travelling by ship often meant a trip of two weeks to five, which happened when we went from Sydney to New York. Our cabin was mostly a five berth on the lower levels of the ship. It became our “home” to the children while we were on the ship and if one of them waned to go to their cabin, they would always refer to it as home – not where we came from or where we were going.
A new home was always a challenge. Beds were the first essential. These were often rented, loaned or bought. Slowly we got the others essentials and eventually we had enough to make a home. New friends and neighbours were always helpful. When we arrived in New York in the middle of winter, a neighbour came over and said she had a pile of kids winter clothes which we collected at the end of each year. These were warm coats, hats, scarves, boots that children had grown out of. In no time my children were outfitted for the freezing weather. The same with school uniforms.
On our first night in New York, my husband had met us when our boat arrived in Florida. We had a late plane ride to New York arriving at 3am. He told us he had rented an apartment in Tarrytown about seventy minutes from Manhattan. We got a rented station wagon for the trip from the airport. He neglected to tell us that he hasn’t been there but assured us that his friends who had lived there said it would be great and that it was furnished etc. We arrived at 4.30am, found the apartment without much difficulty and dragged some suitcases. All was great except the electricity had been cut off. We waited a few minutes for our eyes to become used to the darkness and we could make out he layout with the light from the street lights outside.
We found some beds and couches, dragged some clothes from the suitcases and settled into the cold apartment for morning to come.
Next morning, after we researched the layout and worked out where everyone would sleep, we had to travel and find a supermarket to get something for breakfast and food for the weekend. The children enjoyed the snowy landscape and the excited by huge supermarket with exciting new cereals to try.
The electricity was soon put on and we discovered the apartment was short of one bed but Sarah, our eldest daughter was happy with the couch. An afternoon trip to Manhattan to return the rented station wagon was wonderful with all the buildings and busy streets. After our trip, everyone was glad when we got “home” to our new apartment.