A Christmas homecoming

Updated: Dec 21, 2018, 09:09 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello | Mumbai

Returning home isn't just to brick and mortar, it is to memories, to a sense of unconditional love, to moments of truly being oneself

I peep into homes and find sprightly artificial Christmas trees decked with ornaments. Pic for representation/Getty Images
I peep into homes and find sprightly artificial Christmas trees decked with ornaments. Pic for representation/Getty Images

Rosalyn D'MelloIt is a luxury to be in Panjim around this time of the year. Five days until Christmas and I recognise the familiar domestic distress across Goan Catholic homes. Many have done exceedingly well. As I walk through the bylanes of Fontainhas, I peep into homes and find sprightly artificial Christmas trees decked with ornaments occupying either corners or balconies. Decorations abound within living rooms as well as out on the street as finishing touches are applied to neighbourhood cribs so they can compete with each other.'

The gold-hewn altars of chapels echo the strains of carols sung by local choirs. It's beginning to look a lot like the coastal Christmas I've known all my life. Except I haven't yet been infected by the yuletide spirit, and I know I won't until I step across the threshold of my parents' home and my father force-feeds me his specials: dodol and guava cheese.

There will be no more doubting after that. I have been counting the days until I find myself outside the door of my parents' home. I have this feeling that my father will intuit my final arrival. His ears will detect the shuffling of my feet as I climb up the stairs with my bags. He may not wait for me to ring the bell. Because some months have passed since I was home, the longing has intensified.

And because the last few months have been so stressful, so full of emotional and social battles for the cause of gender equality, which can take such a toll on one's bearings and one's being, you start to realize that the only safe space that exists for you right now is within the comfort of your home, that is if you have the luxury of knowing that the people you love most in the world are also the people you trust the most, beyond any shadow of doubt.

Between my parents' home and my sister's home, I feel no anxiety about being taken care of. This time around, I feel I am going in order to be nurtured, in order to surrender myself to their grace and love and to mark my belonging-ness. In my twenties, home was a place you left, a place where you were 'from', that you didn't seek to make your permanent address. Now, in my early thirties, home is a place to which I want to keep returning.

The term 'home-coming' has begun to acquire a special significance. There is a self that I can only be and articulate when I am in the company of my family. My language is different, not even informal so much as mildly inarticulate. Only my best friends have witnessed that part of my self that is my parents' daughter, my sister's sister, my brothers' sister, my nieces' aunt, my nephew's godmother.

That self is not Rosalyn or Rosa or Roses. It is Rosita. And it is not a name so much as it is the state of mind and body that I can only inhabit when I feel truly safe and secure, when I have no fear of abandonment or rejection, when I know that no fight, no ruffled feathers, no harsh exchanges would ever compromise the integrity of the love that binds me to the people to who address me as such.

It's almost as though each time I am called by that name, a certain sense of my self as one that is unconditionally loved is reinforced. I have had to arrive at this revelation. It was not something that was available to me before. I remember many times in the past when going home filled me with anxiety. What has changed is that I have evolved a much more mature understanding of myself in relation to my family.

While I identify with them and their core values, I have also begun to accept how I distinguish myself from them as a person who has made certain unconventional choices. Where before I felt compelled to be defensive about my decisions and my person-hood, now I am secure enough to not feel the need to adopt that mode as the auto-pilot default. I am looking forward to being less anxious about being the recipient of love and attention. I'm also excited about returning to the larger ecosystem that is an extension of my imaginative understanding of home.

There are my neighbours who I cannot wait to see, childhood friends who may return, friends from my Youth Group and choir days, the kids in the colony who have probably not even begun making the star that traditionally is hung between two buildings so it's the first thing that draws your attention when you enter the lane off LBS Marg. Home is a construct, sure. But it is also something that is evoked sensually. This time I'm going to pay more attention to the sights and smells and all the gestures of touch that punctuate its peripheries.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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