Missing Home: Home and Nostalgia

We often look back at the place we grew up through the idealising lens of nostalgia, but as Molly Alessandra Cooper explores, idealising an old home might not be as useful as finding a home in the present.

I am at home wherever I am welcomed and wherever I choose to be welcomed.

I try not to hold onto one single place – there are homes which sit fondly as a past memory in my heart, but none which I yearn to revisit, and that’s not a bad thing. Nostalgia for the place you grew up in can make you remember it as your one and only ‘home’, but I consider a place a home due to the things I have experienced there.

My mum lives in the house where we originally lived as a family. My parents have since split up, my sister moved to Uganda for a year and very recently my mum’s partner has moved in: it’s been a weird seven years. But, that house is still a home of mine. My mum makes the best porridge in the world (I’m not at all biased), and dances round the house to The Jackson Sisters’ I Believe in Miracles; I am at home where I can catch up over breakfast and dance with my mum.

Since my dad has only moved relatively recently, and I now live away from where I grew up, I have only visited my dad’s ‘new’ house a handful of times, but I can easily feel the comfort of a home there. He makes me hearty food, (slightly too strong) espresso martinis whilst listening to 6Music, and makes me feel at home with our shared love of cheesy food and not-so-cheesy music.

My nan’s is a house which hasn’t changed much since I was born, and is always filled with noise and enjoyably extrovert members of the Cooper family. Arguments and laughter are constants: my nan uses scissors to cut up each and every vegetable in prep for a Sunday roast, and I am home wherever this family is laughing – mainly at my nan. I’m home when my boyfriend’s younger sister bounds through the house to greet us and when his dad jokingly asks if I’d like any chicken from the takeaway. (I’m vegetarian.)

nostalgiaquoteI’m at home when the weird girl at Voodoo Ray’s says ‘Welcome back!’ to my boyfriend and I upon our bimonthly visits (although this one is a shameful home). I am at home when I visit Columbia Road flower market on a Sunday, and admire how mismatched the traditional owners of the stands shouting ‘THREEFORAPOUND’ seem amongst the young crowds, treating themselves to lemon trees and mini cacti for their (South) East London homes.

I was at home in our enormous and cold lounge in my final year of uni, laughing at Aziz Ansari’s stand-up for the thirteenth time with my housemates and closest friends from university after Monday nights out. I was at home aged 10 at my oldest friend’s house, watching James Bond films and being permitted to have midnight feasts by her parents – if we had an apple first. I was at home at my grandma’s house, playing painfully repetitive games of cards and eating golden syrup sandwiches.

Often, you can’t recognise these places as home until they are in your past, but I have many homes, past and present. Should we need nostalgia to revisit them and realise their significance? Owen Wilson’s character in Midnight In Paris is desperate to experience Paris in the 20s, believing this is where and when civilisation was at its peak – but a more cynical character tries to explain to Wilson the problems of longing for a gone-by time:

‘Nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present. The name for this denial is Golden Age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.’

There can be a deep sadness attached to missing a place we call home, if we decide to call home just one place. I can switch between and revisit most of the places I call home. Today, my home is going back to the flat I share with boyfriend to watch Girls and make pancakes for dinner together. Tomorrow, my home is catching up with my best friend in our favourite Wetherspoons (every Wetherspoons is our favourite Wetherspoons). The day after, my home is a life drawing class, where I’ve surpassed my fears and allowed myself to feel welcome.

There isn’t one place which I call ‘mine’, and I’m not sure I’d want to have just one. By having all these places where I feel at home, I don’t have to suffer the anxiety and longing which nostalgia brings if I have to move on. I will treasure the memories of my past homes, and embrace the comfort of my present homes.


Molly Alessandra Cooper | @Mollyalessandra

Photography graduate and Junior Product Developer; appreciates Reebok Classics, yoga and glitter.

Instagram: @mollyalessandra_  | Tumblr: mollyalessandra.co.uk | Blogger: mollyalessandrablog.co.uk