My recent rereading of E.M. Forster's Howards End (see earlier blog post FIRST LOVE) has got me reflecting on the concept of home, which is so central to the novel. Margaret Schlegel marries in part as a reaction to losing the London home she has grown up in, believing that marriage will bring her some stability amid the rapidly changing world that is Edwardian England. When she discovers that her husband has sold the property she expected to be her home and has no particular plan for settling them elsewhere, she is dismayed.
In April of 1997 our family moved from the apartment in San Francisco that was the only home the Pie and the Guy had ever known to a three-bedroom home in Berkeley. It was an improvement in many ways; for example, the kids, who were six, had a yard to play in for the first time. The Guy expressed his angst about the move bluntly--he has always had a special gift for understanding and expressing his feelings. We tried to prepare the Pie for the move. We took pictures of him in the new house, empty of furniture, and of the old apartment, and put them in the appropriate boxes on a calendar to show that change was coming. We weren't at all certain he understood the plan, and we were anxious about how he would react. But he seemed to take it in stride--there was no increase in toileting accidents or in the frequency of the aggressive outburst that were so common then.
That summer we spent a few days at a camp in Marin County for the families of kids with special needs; we all had a wonderful time. When camp was over we signed "home" to the Pie as we climbed into the car for the return trip. He responded with intense excitement; we were a little surprised, but pleased. All the way back to Berkeley he insistently signed "home" to us, demanding that we sign it back to him again and again, till we began, uneasily, to guess the truth. As we neared the house he made grunts of protest, and as we pulled into the driveway he burst into desolate wails. Our hearts ached for him. From then on, our Berkeley home was never "home" in sign language. To this day we use the sign "house," instead.
On several trips to our old neighborhood in San Francisco the Pie has insisted that we revisit our old street. Once, as we stood at the locked gate to our building, he signed "keys" insistently, till we showed him that our keys no longer fit that lock. Even though he loves Berkeley and his life here, I think there will always be a piece of him that wishes he could go back. And perhaps he vocalizes what many of us would feel if were let our emotions bubble as freely forth as the Pie does.