“Where Are You from?”

Home, no matter our origin, provides order and respite from the outside world. It is within those four walls of our personal space that we learn to care for ourselves, and if we co-habitate, then we learn the very important lessons of diplomacy and compromise.

Sometimes we are very far away from what we know, and we call this home. In other circumstances, we are in the same place we have always been, surrounded by only what is familiar. 

Young children will almost always draw their home in the center of the page, as if it were singular in existence. Very commonly, the place where we grew up retains an almost iconic status in our minds. Jeremy Holmes, a pioneer of attachment theory, said, “Try to pry a limpet away from its rock and it will cling all the harder.”

That being said, humans have a proven universal ability to adapt and assimilate. We can relocate halfway across the globe and still have a sense of community and belonging. We are, after all, a social species that rely on cooperation to thrive and survive.

A friend, over coffee the other day, suddenly proclaimed to me that there are three major things that can most significantly affect or impact a human psychologically.  Moving homes, changing jobs, or divorce. In my mind, this made absolute sense.

Home has the ability to mold our sense of who we are and where we come from, and without it we are essentially lost. It is necessary to have a rock, in order to have the chance to move away from it.

Parents, to their credit, do a large part in providing the rock. This task is never ending. We provide the language, structure, nourishment and social rules – not even counting the physical entity. This job is enormous. Our children constantly battle against the foundation we provide, willful and earnest in their desire for autonomy. Our ambition to give the best we can shields us from their scrutiny and non-complacency, allowing us to fulfill the criteria we set out to achieve.

It can seem, against all odds, that what humans take from their earliest life experiences, usually the ones with their parents, is that greatest sense of belonging. The socialization that occurs within a family, the cooperation and communication – these skills carry over through a lifetime. When one person feels important in a group and realizes the importance of her own effect, she truly knows she belongs. 

Jeremy Holmes also said, “Attachment is a unifying principle that reaches from the biological depths of our being to its furthest spiritual reaches.” To go out into the world requires a deep sense of having fit in and been understood.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” a commonly heard song on the radio during the holiday season, not only tells of the promise to be near loved ones, but also insinuates a deep, longing desire to be home…a desire to be known and familiar. As we reach this season, let us remember that this time we pass together, with all of its trials and tribulations, sets the standard for the ones who depend on us and will forever define their sense of home.

By Whitney Bushnell

Whitney Bushnell is a Montessori teacher and mother of two living in Lucerne.

Illustration by Laura Munteanu

Laura has studied journalism and advertising, and has worked as a journalist and an illustrator. She has illustrated for magazines, websites, charities and diverse campaigns. She lives in Zurich with her husband and ten-year-old daughter.

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