Letters to Home
I periodically follow the Arthouse Co-op because they have some pretty interesting community art projects/challenges. I have yet to officially participate in one since I totally failed in my attempt at the 2010 Sketchbook Project, but this Letters to Home project resonated with me. Here’s a description:
What would you say to your childhood home?
It’s been awhile, and the house you grew up in is starting to wonder about you… If your childhood home could hear you, what would you say? It might have been an apartment in the big city, a farmhouse in the country, or a cabin in the woods — there’s a place from your past that will stay with you forever. Letters to Home is a community art project that asks creative people like you to write a letter to your childhood home. Share an epic backyard adventure, ask a lingering question, or reveal a long-kept secret — we’ll transform our storefront exhibition space into a mailbox from the past.
So here I go…
Sa aking minamahal na 35 Payna St., (To my beloved 35 Payna St.)
It is March 2012 now and though I no longer remember the exact day that I left you, I hope you believe me when I say that I’ve kept you in my heart all this time. I’ve been away 20 years and I am filled with stories and adventures, memories and moments that I want to share, but I find myself speechless. Speechless because a part of me is actually really embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to write you. Speechless because what does one say after 20 years? Hello? How are you? Remember that one time when I played with my teacup set in your living room?
In 2008 I went home and I came to see you for the first time since I had left. Unsure if you’d remember me, I stood outside of your magnificent green gate and touched the iron hearts that adorned your door. The gate was smaller than I had remembered, and I could have sworn the street you stand upon wasn’t that narrow, but it was you. You have a new family now, and I’m sure you are everything to them that you had always been to me, so I didn’t knock. Instead I just stood outside, taking you in, playing every memory I could conjure up in my mind.
I want you to know that I loved you. Still love you. You always made me feel safe and secure; just cozy enough to provide comfort when it was raining and yet felt expansive and never-ending during hide and seek games. You tolerated my insistence of having the equivalent of a small farm within your walls, and never complained once about Lucky the doberman pinscher, Poopy the scraggly puppy, Goldie the retriever, Rocky the fighting rooster & his gang of friends, the hens, the pairs of love birds, all the fish, the chicks and ducks, and the guinea pigs. Thank you for giving them home when the rest of the street laughed, and thank you for the stability you provided me during my childhood.
I want you to know that I never wanted to leave you. I think about you all the time, and I can truthfully say that my life today is defined largely by the time we’ve spent together and the time we’ve spent apart. We whispered our hopes and dreams upon your walls during dark brown out days, hid in your crevices when movies were too scary, and lounged on your cool floors on hot days. You never complained when we lashed out in hunger or frustration, desperation or despair. You always forgave us when we were unable to attend to your needs, and accepted without judgement when we made the difficult decision to leave you behind.
Leaving you was the hardest day of my life, thank you for understanding.
I don’t remember it, and perhaps it is due in part to the deep trauma I still feel from having to take those steps away from you. I hope you know that I didn’t want to do it, never imagined that we could ever be separated. But they explained to me in hushed voices, laid out a logic so plain that even my nine year old self understood, and I knew I had to accept responsibility for a new word that I was then taught, which was survival.
I am well now, and we are happy. I am married, have bunnies, and live in a nice place that treats us well. I keep a photo of you by my windowsill, and think fondly of you often. I know now that leaving you was out of my hands as it was out of yours. I know now that there are many like me who have had to leave unwillingly, and many like you who may be waiting for an explanation.
We are called migrants, and I’ve met countless like me in my new life here in America. We get together often and share stories of green gates and narrow streets, cool floors and pseudo farms within walls. We work towards one day that we all may return to you and to others like you. Building towards one day when letters like this will not be necessary, difficult decisions for survival won’t have to be made, and our relationships to our homes in our own land can be permanent.
I hope you can forgive the time that has passed between us. I look forward to reuniting with you again soon, and perhaps next time I will muster up the courage to knock on your door.
You are my inspiration every day, and for as long as I live, I will call you home.