When a magazine selects a theme it can be quite loose and tenuous, a thin net containing a random collection of work. Messy Heads has dealt with the self in its first issue and rebellion in the second, but its third issue really, well, hits home.
Rather than just a fluffy representation of a nostalgic place, filled with jolly memories and festive holidays spent around the dining table, Messy Heads invites you to re-evaluate the notion of home. Within its four walls are family conflicts and constrictions, itchy feet and celebrations. The balance of belonging and independence is well kept, with a steady removal of sentimentality that unveils an addictive yearn for freedom.
The cover itself shows a woman on a swing, with her back to the camera, seemingly primed to accelerate from childhood into adulthood, launching away from the safety of the familiar and into the unknown. On the other hand, it lends an image of the journey between two places: where you were born and where you now choose to reside in. That’s a swing most of us sway on until there is no childhood home to go back to.
The grainy snaps of friends, houses and odd bric-a-brac that litter the pages have never felt more appropriate. They come across as half-remembered things, faces with no names, kitchens with wallpaper that has now been recovered.
Emma Mercury, the editor, anchors the issue and shines herself with some poignant and simple stories of growing-up, pocketed with first-time experiences. A near miss with a first kiss, playing baseball, eating chocolate coated popcorn; squabbling in the car, scraping your knee, listening to your dad talk on the phone. These stories are full of rhythm and routine, sprinkled with treats and trials. They paint a portrait of upbringing as, if not idyllic, varied. The arc of many of the articles starts in childhood and ends with the adult now looking back. It has bittersweet notes, heady with nostalgia, with a fuller flavour of freedom.
Some stories do not bestow the warmth of happy families; these houses ache with dismay and dismal realisations. Some outgrow them like Alice in Wonderland taking her first bite of Eat Me cake, and others find doors are locked when they try to return. Stifling suburbia, discrimination and overbearing parents all contribute to rebellious action, a strident decision to never make a home as they had lived in before. Whether the traumas are minute or massive, the writers displace themselves for better pastures. The intimacy and honesty with which they speak bring comfort that things can get better.
The recommended playlists have a hazy and whimsical sound. They become tracks to move on to, with guitars strumming at the pace of the spinning spokes of bicycles and rapping vocals the speed of a chugging train.
It is natural for the theme of home to encompass travel, the solitary migration and upheaval, the toing and froing. The distance accentuates the absence, like gum being stretched between fingers. Without an instruction manual on how to build your own place in the world, it is daunting and exhilarating to finally have a choice on where to reside. This does not come without its fumbling, consisting of making mistakes, making a fool of yourself and making your bed.
Hundreds or thousands of miles away from family, friends and lovers are the first things that take root. The musical duo girlyboi find home within their ethereal music and each other, and Bea Helmen’s article, Breakfast is Ready, touches on how home is where the love is. Endless Blue, by Samantha Troilo, mixes rocksteady friendships with the scent of the sea. Family and residence becomes more than just an old house and blood relatives.
When the house is gone and your belongings are in boxes, you can unpack sights and sounds to bring you back. The scent of the food your grandmother used to cook or incense burned by your mum, music to dance around the kitchen to and a simple phone call. Whether you go, so home goes, too. It’s where the heart is.
When you feel cast adrift, remember you have a gravitational pull. Like a rock in space it draws things to it. You draw friends, favourite restaurants, music, memory, a job, until it is a planet, revolving and inhabited by all the things that make you, you. History can only ever make so much of an impact before you take control for yourself. Home is not something you were born into or given, it is something you chose. It is simply somewhere to live.