Wherever We Are

Home is wherever we are

Country Liana Davidyan

“The Latin word “domus” means a dwelling / household. It’s a place where we are warmed by a hearth, our food is cooked, our children are born and our old folk pass away. This is where we can find a shelter from nasty weather and take a rest after a hard day in the cosy embrace of a warm plaid. However, there comes a time when this place suddenly feels strangely empty. It is then that we make the next step from the “household” to the “deep-laid” perception of home being a lot more than just physical walls,” says Liana Davidyan, our all-time columnist and Director of Avroraclinic.

There are certain things I consider absolutely sacred and prefer to keep mum on. As if I were afraid to spill and let them slip away. They are so precious or even mystic that a clumsy effort to explain their great value in most cases causes nothing but polite perplexity. Some things must be kept secret deep inside. They are just like a good old port wine ripening in special barrels in dark cellars to reveal its real taste to very few connoisseurs, the majority thinking it to be no more than cheap booze.

It’s common knowledge that many simple everyday things are usually taken for granted and hardly ever appreciated. However, once they are taken away or even limited, their value rockets immediately. Children are unaware of many things and take their environment as a given. The place their parents bring them to is just a background of the faces they love unconditionally. Their idea of home as a phenomenon and symbol, protection and support is formed in time a bit a time. Some go through this unnoticeably, in other words, quite happily. Moving from their parents’ to their grandparents’ for school holidays or to their own homes in their adult lives, they experience no disjuncture, home always remaining the background of their lives.

Meanwhile, others are destined to discover the value of home more in terms of humanistic psychology. Four walls, a roof over the head, furnishing and comfort meet no more than a basic need. While playing, a child often shouts, “Safe inside!” The entrance door locked, an adult’s inner voice always whispers, “Safe now!” This feeling is so familiar to practically all who once were, all of a sudden, deprived of their homes, except “Vagabond Syndrome” victims, of course. The striving to restore the lost feeling of safety brings some people to the brink of fetishism. For them even a slight change of the interior, to say nothing of moving to another location, is a universal disaster. It’s a well-known fact that some residents of old people’s homes suddenly fall ill or even, alas, pass away after their rooms have been refurnished. Well, the case of an elderly person with dementia and a bunch of other health problems is accountable enough. However, if a person in the prime of life behaves similarly it’s a serious enough reason to consider the issue closely. Are physical walls really of such paramount importance? How could a different colour of the wallpaper affect one’s life?

One day an acquaintance of mine told me about renovating his new flat. Before too long, we found ourselves in a heated discussion of the best location to live at. Downtown or out of town? We talked about traffic jams, the quiet of the countryside, fresh air, the proximity of the workplace and what should be one’s priorities in making a choice. Then, quite unexpectedly, he said matter-of-factly, “Actually, my home is wherever my children are.” Without realising it, he moved to a rather rare third category of people able to grasp the real deep-laid value of what home is all about.

Home is the circular baselines of security and comfort we build around ourselves, yet, fully aware of their temporariness.

Once, a 100-bed hospital department for patients on artificial lung ventilation became my home for three months. Every hospital smells in its own way. This particular smell greets your nostrils right there at the reception, sticks like glue to your skin and chases you long after your visit causing hard-as-nails associations you cannot possibly call pleasant. The smell of that hospital was accompanied by a monotonously beeping sound of pulse & blood pressure monitors, every now and again amplified by explosive screams of alarm signals. Anyhow, all that was not half as horrible as the hissing resonant sound of the machines helping those practically incurable people to breathe. Many of them were conscious and in hopeless desperation watched what was going on around them. Some, to everybody’s joy, managed to recover while others got too exhausted to keep fighting and every week someone’s lung motor stopped working. I came there at 9 a.m. and left about 8 p.m. when the personnel started preparing the patients for sleep. During the first week I was my mother’s sick-nurse and interpreter. Can you imagine the feelings of a woman who walks into a doctor’s office for a routine diagnostic procedure and in a short while finds herself lying in bed with all kinds of sensors all over her and a pipe sticking out of her throat in the middle of a foreign country? What happened in between is another story. One fine day I may be able to share it without a lump in my throat. Back then I just could not possibly have left Mom in the hands of, no doubt, professional, yet, strangers.

That late autumn the weather in Israel was just marvelous. Unfortunately, the patients of that hospital department could not enjoy it. They humbly lay in their very comfortable beds slowly fading away. However, my everyday visits changed that all-time scheme dramatically. Firstly, the patients got special tablets to put down whatever they wished to say. Secondly, those able to walk started communicating with each other during their exercise therapy sessions in an absolutely amazing way showing those who’d abandoned all hope a good example to follow. Thirdly, most patients were Russian speakers so I read books aloud and sang songs for them. Last but, no way, least, most female patients resumed manicuring their nails!

Those little bits and pieces of a big life enlivened the commonplace hospital walls both literally and figuratively.

Home is what we create around ourselves. Home is what we leave behind. Home is wherever we are.