Home Comforts – Thursday’s Children

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A weekly blog hop
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This week I’ve been revisiting an old character I love dearly, but who has really been through the wringer. He’s the guy that saw danger coming and couldn’t get anyone to listen to him. He’s lost a lot and as the world literally falls around him, he doggedly holds on to the only thing he has left – the truth. But his path is so lonely and wretched at times, even as I’m writing him, my heart breaks a little.

So because I’m really a big softie, I’ve been looking for little ways to bring him comfort on his journey. My character lives in a fantasy world, and our backgrounds and circumstances are seriously different – yet I was still able to look to my own experiences for inspiration.

When I was at University I spent a summer picking fruit (apricots and cherries) down in Central Otago (South Island of NZ). The landscape was quite different from the green pastural fields of my childhood home – everything was on a grander scale. The hills towered over sweeping, burnt plains; the river was mountain-fed, fast flowing and more dangerous than anything I’d encountered before; and I was living in an old shearers’ quarters with other seasonal workers.

It was also the time before cell phones and the shearers’ quarters (a very old rambling building with a big front porch – in very bad repair) had no telephone so in order to ring home I had to hike down (and often have to queue up) for the payphone. It felt like I was living in another world.

At that time the things I remembered being very precious were a few photographs, a silver cross necklace my mother bought me (that I tragically lost – but she, hearing how upset I was, sent me another exactly the same) and a few letters. One of my friends lived closer, and his Mum used to send him chocolate cakes which he used to share with me. Strangely, just knowing it was homemade was comforting. When you can’t get to your own family, it’s nice when someone else pulls you into their fold.

But the thing I remember most vividly was one night I’d been visiting friends who lived 10km out-of-town, and for some reason I decided to walk back home by myself. For the life of me I can’t think why I would’ve done it. Although summer down south means the light lasts a long time, I was a teenage girl out in the middle of nowhere – and it was totally dark when I got back to town. But I remember looking out over the great river plain as the sky blazed and faded to black and realising that the stars were the same as home. Although I’m not a big star-gazer the sky was comfortingly familiar. I was able to find the Southern Cross and it made me feel better when the road got darker and the night noises fired my overactive imagination.

My character might not have photographs, but he has a few precious family heirlooms he carries with him. In at least one situation he’s pulled into the bosom of a very big family, and he has the stars too.

Smells, tastes, music and familiar landscapes can all hold comforting memories. I can’t see nasturtiums without thinking of my grandmother. My other grandmother used to say well hung washing looked like a rainbow, I often think of her when I’m hanging my own out. So I’m looking for similar stories for my characters too.

What kinds of things bring you or your characters comfort?

If you’d like to join us in the Thursday’s Children Blog Hop, or see what’s inspiring everyone else, click on this linky. Many thanks to Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez for hosting!

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35 thoughts on “Home Comforts – Thursday’s Children

  1. What an awesome post. I can’t see walking all that way by yourself! In the middle of nowhere, in the growing dark . . . but what a memory. Cherry pipe tobacco — it reminds me of my dad. He used to smoke pipes, I have two of his on my mantle and will smell them every so often, rub the bowls against my nose like he used to do to put the natural oils on them.

    1. If I remember right it had something to do with a boy (doesn’t it always at that age)… and no public transport in the back of beyond.

      The pipes sound wonderful – a perfect comforting memory holding scent and texture.

  2. That was super-evocative. As for teenage girls doing stupid things like that, I’m afraid it’s the nature of the “beast”. I consider myself extremely lucky that none of the bad things that could have happened to me, did. And now you’ve really got me thinking, both about possible future TC posts and what will make our new home “feel” like our old home. Hmm…

    1. I agree – thinking back on my own youth makes me more nervous (suspicious) as a parent. Although mine are still fairly young yet.

      I’m glad it made you think – I always look forward to your TC posts!

    1. The great thing about pendants / lockets is that they can be carried easily and are a tangible link to loved ones. When my grandmother died she left me the watch she wore as long as I can remember. It’s not particularly valuable in monetary terms, but I’ve worn it for the past 13 years and it’s such a lovely memory of her every time I look at it.

      1. Ooh! I have my grandma’s charm bracelet. My mom has her mother’s and grandmother’s wedding rings on a pendant that I’ll inherit one day. I do love family heirlooms.

  3. I agree totally — no matter what worlds our characters visit, or what journeys they go on, they’ll always be a least a little bit homesick.

    My characters mainly stick to two things. (1) a very special object (ie. a necklace belonging to a character’s mother, and (2) memories of characters they’ve left behind.

    There’s nothing like homesickness and nostalgia to show that your characters really are human!

    1. Yes, even if they are on the great adventure – there’s always those quiet times when they’re wondering what on earth they’re doing. It’s a way I can really connect with who they are too.

    1. They probably don’t think I’m very kind to them (I just had a beta asking me to rethink something that’s happened to one of my sweeter characters). But if I can’t change the big things, I can at least throw them a few crumbs.

  4. Nice. I am comforted by your descriptions too. But my MC doesn’t really have anything that comforts her aside from the memories of her grandmother she’s searching for. Hm? I may have to give her a necklace or something. 🙂

  5. My current MC has a mule that acts more like a mother.

    Myself, I prefer macaroni & cheese :0)

  6. Good question Raewyn! The character I’m working with right now is a 16 year old actress who draws comfort from performing either on stage or on film. She loves the attention and the challenge that comes with convincing an audience that you’re someone else entirely.

  7. That’s a really lovely post Raewyn. It’s so nice to have things to remind us of home when we’re far away from it. I suppose I’m not often away from home these days but when I am I like to phone my husband or send him a text message. But obviously you couldn’t do that and that’s what makes your post so interesting.

  8. Really beautiful and evocative descriptions – what an incredible sounding place to spend a summer. Didn’t we all do some crazy things like a 10km hike on our own in the dark when we were teenagers…!

    My main character in The Butterfly Storm finds comfort in her surroundings and the peace and quiet of the natural world – the view of Mount Olympus from the garden of her home in Greece or a wild windswept beach on the north Norfolk coast. She’d have loved to have joined you fruit picking in Central Otago. 🙂

    1. I like the sound of her! The natural world is a wonderful place to ground yourself. (I’m still trying to plan an ‘away’ time – to get into the great outdoors by myself). Probably not a 10km hike in the middle of the night…

  9. What a beautiful post! I have both of my grandmother’s wedding rings and I treasure them. They were two of the strongest women I’ve ever known and every time I see the rings, I’m reminded of that. 🙂

    1. What wonderful momentoes – wedding rings especially as they hold memories of a special day, but also the lives they made afterwards. (Those possessive apostrophes are slippery little things aren’t they… they get away from me too!).

  10. Wonderful post, Raewyn… it’s interesting and beautiful to see where the physical (objects, places, smells) intersect with the spiritual and emotional…

    My three main characters are left with almost nothing physical, though one of them gains something meaningful as she goes along. They draw strength from the land they are from, though. I guess that is because I draw so much strength from my home.

      1. Too true. We weren’t meant to live in isolation, either from each other or from the physical world around us, or so I think.

        Having an extremely strong connection to the land seems to be a common trait among people from my region of the U.S. I think it whispers to us. 😉

  11. I love the picture of you walking home in the middle of the night, looking up at the Southern Cross. What a beautiful moment (although I doubt it felt quite like that at the time).

    1. Apart from feeling a bit heebie jeebie about being alone – it was one of those moments that strangely did feel very special at the time. And I have never forgotten it, nor had one quite like it since.

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