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March 18th, 2011

Japan: Losing "Home"

I cannot fathom the heartache, fear, and loss that the people of Japan are suffering. The aftermath of the earthquake itself wasn’t the catastrophe it could have been because of Japan’s strict building codes, but the ensuing tsunami washed away towns, homes and lives by the thousands.


A wealthy, developed nation has been felled by nature. A fierce reminder that we aren’t invincible no matter where we live, how much we make, and how many precautions we take. It’s scary and it’s sad, and I feel powerless to make it better. Of course, there are ways to help. With funds and human hands, Japan can start to rebuild. Edifices will be erected, houses will be built, but finding “home” will take some time.


When I was 17, my family home went up in flames. I know that doesn’t compare to seeing your whole town succumb to a battering ram of water, but I feel I can understand, even if just a little, what losing home feels like.


My family rebuilt, and the insurance company tried to return what was salvageable. I was allowed to choose new paint and carpet for my room. The rest of the house was remodeled to my parents specifications. It was indeed new and improved when all was said and done. And it was great. But it wasn’t home.


Gone was the sofa set I had climbed on as a baby. Familiar smells were replaced with fresh paint and new furniture. The old back door was now a sliding patio door. Beautiful, but not home.


Now, many years later, the second version of my family home is familiar again. It smells like it should, the fingerprints and dents are well established, and I could navigate the place with my eyes closed. I can barely remember what it used to be like before the fire. Home is home again, and I hope it stays that way.


So to the people of Japan who survived to see their living spaces destroyed, we are all thinking of you, and may you find “home” again.  

  • Posted by Zanello on March 18th, 2011, 14:24
    Can't imagine what that would have been like for you, losing your home in such a shocking, devastating way. I read a book for teens when I was one where a girl lost everything in a fire except this horrid pink sweater, and after the fire it became her most valued possession, because it represented 'before'. I have seen people help their parents sell their childhood homes, and I like to think that it'd be a matter of accepting that it is just a thing, not the childhood itself. But they had time to remove their belongings, prepare emotionally, and there was some reasonable purpose behind it.

    You've got me thinking now about all the different ways people can lose their home. I feel like I've lost my grandmothers' homes, and part of my childhood, since they died and their homes were sold. I can never take my daughter to play in the creek like I did at my grandmother's, where my mother grew up, swimming before bed in the summer to cool off, catching frogs, jumping in the deep hole. I feel like she won't understand me fully because I can't show her that.

    Sometimes home is lost when you just leave, voluntarily or otherwise. And it's true, in varying degrees, you cannot go back. For us transients, the frequent movers, ex-pats or other migrants, self-identity can get all jumbled up in the diaspora.

    I'm putting down roots for the first time since I was 18, and while I like the concept, I feel a suffocating wanderlust every now and then, and wonder how on earth THIS is where I came to choose to settle down. Choosing a home is so hard when no place on earth seems quite right somehow. There is always, always something missing.

    At least now I have a couple of long-term 'travelling companions'.
  • Posted by magda627 on March 22nd, 2011, 08:48
    Great article ! Et quelle tragédie ce cataclisme qui touche les ne peux pas m'empêcher de penser à des familles qui ont tout perdue, c'est très triste. Ça nous rappel que nous sommes des fourmis pour Dame Nature. Merci de partager ta vision très humaine de cet événement !
  • Posted by Sara Lomas on March 24th, 2011, 13:04
    Trish, what an eloquent expression of the complexity of attachment and loss. I think I understand your restlessness. Longing to keep exploring, searching, moving until I find that elusive "it". I am so glad that you have found some comrades along the way. I suppose that is one of the advantages of family: they choose to share our path, and help us find home. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words. Reading you is a treat.

    Magda, Je suis d'accord, c'est tres, tres triste. Too profound to turn into sentences. Hug your family extra hard for me. Thank you for contributing here.

    Most sincerely,
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Janette  Ewen

Janette Ewen has been one of Canada’s leading décor and lifestyle experts for more than a decade, passing on her passion for design and fashion to avid fans through magazines, newspapers and television.

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