Friday, February 27, 2009

Home is where the coffee machine is

To get to my daughter's school, we walk past hundreds of shops and cafes and restaurants. The other morning, as we passed a big pizza restaurant I glimpsed the owner standing there barefoot, shirtless, hair on end, making an espresso on the enormous commercial machine. Lots of people around here live above their shops. I'm sure he had just rolled out of bed and staggered downstairs to make his first coffee for the day.

It made me think about what constitutes home. For many in our society, home is where we eat, watch TV and sleep. Before we had kids, we ate out so often that home was pretty much where we slept, and read the weekend papers. Like most people in our society, we didn't work at home.

Yet once we all did; it's only relatively recently that industry has moved out of the home. And home is my place of work now, although I hesitate to call it a 'workplace' given half my time is spent fooling around with kids. This morning we made icy poles. It's hard to feel like that's work, even though we made them between sweeping the floors and putting away the washing and bathing the baby. For that matter, bathing the baby can't possibly be called work; it's pure joy, what with her chubby limbs and gurgles of delight and the soft intimacy of her naked skin. She smells of home.

Does working at home make it more of a home? I sometimes think I feel more at home than my partner, who is at another workplace much of the week. Yet sometimes working at home, meaning outside work as opposed to housework, can be such a struggle against overcrowding or constant disruptions, that the house begins to feel hostile. There are days when I am writing and the kids, though playing with their father, still hammer on the study door - or are just so damn noisy screeching up and down the hallway that even with earphones in I can barely think.

More whimsically, is home where the coffee machine is? I always wondered why I hated holidays, until I realised that I was coffee starved. And holidays never feel much fun when I'm headachy and lethargic. Now that we have kids, we usually rent houses or apartments for our holidays. And so when we go away we take our little espresso machine with us, and it's the first thing I set up. Within a short time of arrival, we sit down with a coffee, recover from the drive, and begin to feel settled. And there's nothing like the smell of coffee to make a strange place feel like home.

Perhaps I should move to Brazil.

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