Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Original photo by Johanna Weeks

What is home?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Ashoka chapter.

Edited by – Prisha Visveswaran

“Memory is a slippery thing; details are hazy, fickle. The more you strain, the less you see. A memory of a memory endlessly corrupting itself.”

I was 9 once, one of my earliest memories revolved around me sitting with my parents, watching our family dog play around in a pond. The three of us sat on a bench overlooking a park. It was morning, I think, and autumn was in full season. Dad sat filming us. I remember wondering why he recorded every single thing, but I didn’t mind. He was happy, and so were we.

“Smile,” he said, pointing the camcorder at us, and then at our Labrador.
“Look at how she goes,” Mom said, holding me, and I felt like home.

Time flew by, and I turned 17. Parents became outsiders, and friends became home. My house was the last place I wanted to be. I went through the things every teenager does, making and breaking relationships, feeling alienated from home, trying to discover myself on my own, and struggling to get my own independence. Family trips started to seem suffocating and pointless, I recall going to a hill station with them. 

Sitting in the backseat listening to music, I remember them shouting at me for being on my phone all day. I remember feeling heartburn for now insignificant flings. I remember drowning out every thought I had with melodies. 

“We’re there,” Dad said, as the car shuddered to a stop. I got out, removed my earphones, and looked towards the view. The sky was starry, and so was the town underneath. The pretty sights only reminded me of the fact that I wouldn’t be sharing it with people I cared about. 

“Smile” I saw Dad waving his camera at me. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t. Worse, I was annoyed. “Why are you never happy with us?” Mom snapped, “Are friends everything to you?” yeah, because they actually understand. I only looked at them unbothered. “What’s going on? we’re your parents. tell us” I would if you stopped being parents for once, and actually try to understand. Except they didn’t, and I only plugged my earphones back on and walked away. I lost home.

I was 20 once, distance didn’t fix anything other than my perspective. I found a new home in college. Family was still family, I realised, but no matter what I thought, it was hard to bridge the distance that we already had. It was partly my fault, and partly theirs, I had come to realise. I still wonder if I had reached out earlier it would have gotten better. I had found the independence I had been looking for. It was comfortable but the trade-off put me on the brink of regret at times. I looked at Dad’s old recordings sometimes, with a twinge of regret. It took me a while, but I remember coming across that video of us from when I was 9. I remember smiling. Home was still there, except now only in old recordings and fading memories.

Now I’m 40, and with a 17-year-old of my own. In the process of parenting, I realised why Dad took so many pictures and videos. The older I get, the less I trust my memories. These recordings are the only thing me and my daughter will have. All I want is for them to be happy and untainted.
“Smile” I call out to her, taking a picture. She doesn’t look up from her phone. I frown.

When we’re growing up, we don’t realise that we’re also watching our parents grow. It makes me happy to watch us grow and blossom. I look back at the photos of my daughter with us, laughing and having fun, and I feel a flush of warmth mixed with regret. The life we’ve shared is beautiful, and all I want is for us to stay the same. I’ve seen her drift apart and I’ve tried to fix it, only to make it worse. I wonder where I went wrong, but it’s hard. After all, this is my first time as well. I finally feel a silent understanding with my parents, but now I yearn for it with my daughter. 

“Smile,” I say, a twinge of annoyance in my voice, “what is-”
I stop myself.

If you stopped being parents for once, I remember thinking.

It’s going to be different this time, I decide. I stop recording. Memories are fickle, but experiences are not. I could click a thousand videos of us having fun, but I want her to be able to look at these recordings without guilt. I want her to never lose her home. Whether she finds it in friends or family. I want her to think, this is home, wherever she is.

I walk up to her and sit, putting an arm around her. Memories flash by and all I can think is, this is home.

Karunya is a published author in his first year at Ashoka University, and is planning to pursue Economics as his major. He is part of the content team for the Ashoka chapter of Her Campus. He secretly (now publicly, I suppose) enjoys being called an indie kid and is a massive film buff. He could talk about movies and music for hours on end, and is always armed with fun facts about the most random things.