Friday, May 20, 2022

"Home" vs. "Away"

I’m home now. I’m looking at the flea market couch I brought up from California; I had cushions made three times over the years till I got it just right. Now it’s just right. It’s been in my life 42 years.
Tim has been in my life 34 years, but he had to be out of town this weekend; so “home” as a notion right now is “place,” not “where Tim is.” That makes for interesting thoughts.
Home is Life Admin and Chores
Home is where I came back to two months of unopened mail, piled high. And that’s Issue #1 about home: It comes with what Sophie calls Life Admin. Life Admin is bills to pay, bank statements to reconcile, plants to be repotted, newspaper delivery issues to be complained about, humidifier to be cleaned and put away, etc etc ad infinitum. Life Admin is Chores.

“Away” still comes with Chores, but they’re different. There will always be laundry, but Away laundry is “throw it all in one load.” Home laundry is different temperatures based on color and fabric, which is not a bad thing. In fact, I enjoy being a master launderer, but Away laundry is the three T-shirts and two jeans you brought, and you’ll wait to repair one pair of jeans till you’re home with your sewing machine (Life Admin).
Home cooking comes with a pantry and a well-stocked spice rack. Away cooking is like camping: in a bare kitchen, I discovered the only staples I needed were olive oil, vinegar, and soy sauce. My salmon, broccoli, and spinach salads were easy and delicious, and dishwashing was a piece of cake, too.

Away eating is usually street food (roti, char siu bao, a baguette, a Greek salad, whatever I come across), so there’s less cooking (and I’m eight pounds less, too). Home eating means cooking, so it runs up against the do-over-and-over-again problem endemic to Chores.
Away comes with a landlord; Home comes with homeownership. Home ownership comes with Life Admin; it’s a love/hate relationship.
Away is escape
When I take my Months, Tim, Sophie, and my sister usually visit for a few days or less than a week. This time, Tim came for a month, and I found myself Preparing Speeches in anticipation: “I am not taking care of you.” Wow, I hadn’t expected that, but I realized that Away meant I wasn’t a wife, a mother, a caregiver, a responsible party. I was just Barbara. Although I was first in the Airbnb, I didn’t want to be the household manager, the keeper of Life Admin.
It’s different when Tim and I vacation; then we’re both tourists and equals experiencing a place, and we have a great time. But in my Months, I’m what a friend calls a “resident visitor,” and I’m making a life. It’s an act of creation, and I want to be free to explore it without introducing Life Admin. I startled myself with my vehemence – my ferocity even – I’m still pondering that.
Home means a Car
Away is public transit; Home is driving a car. My car is often my friend and I look forward to road trips; but public transit is my love. My Presto card and the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) open up a whole world for me while I get to look out windows, not worry about parking or gas, be part of society. Public transit is walking out to a bus or subway stop and knowing one will come within a few minutes. It is not having to check a schedule for the 45-minute chance a bus will come. I used to run Anchorage’s public transit system, but Anchorage will always require a car.

My last streetcar ride in Toronto was very complicated: almost every stop involved a person in a wheelchair, walker, or stroller; so the ramp was often deployed and the aisle got very crowded. I could have been annoyed, but instead I thought: this is a place to grow old! People can still get around in their Third Third, no matter their physical state.

Home is comfort
Robert Frost’s home may be “‘… the place where, when you have to go there,/ They have to take you in,’” but Home is also the place that, when you’re not at your best, sick or hurting, “comes with a husband, a couch, a heating pad, a big blanket, Netflix, many library books, a teakettle, and a medicine cabinet.”
Home holds memory
When my mother moved out of the family home, she lamented the wall where all our heights were marked as we grew up. Those marks were a symbol of all that had transpired there, all the life and memories. Home holds that past. Away holds re-creation. In our Third Third, those two battle a tug-of-war.


  1. Ahh Barbara - you nailed the dilemma again. I just returned from being ‘away’ and it’s always good news, bad news. ❤️

  2. How is it possible I love both packing to go away and unpacking when I get home? The anticipation of the impending trip and the comfort of putting things away where they belong...we need them both in our lives. 😊

  3. Hallo, Barbara!

    Happily in (Northern) Ireland now. SO many things are simply better than where we had lived for 15 years. Interesting how bad things (not getting our planning permission for a passivhaus on the Isle of WIght) led us to give up on those past years among the English (as I put it now).

    We're off to dinner with some young folk who took a shine to us at a writers' conference in our (now) home town a few weeks ago. Last week, we were in Belfast for Irish Yearly Meeting (Quakers) getting to know (a lot more) friendly folk in this part of the islands. We've found our 'Toronto' it seems.

    Write when you're ready. Updates are good.

  4. And once more... Hi BARBARA!!! Are you back from the void yet? Have an update on your life? Our lives? Wondering if any of us care about anything, any more?

    Write and find out. (smile)


Sharing Button