Home. It’s a word I say a lot and a concept I think about even more. What is home anyway? The house in which one lives? The town in which one grows up? The place one goes when they die? Where the heart is? I think the most likely answer to all those questions is “yes”. Home is many places, sometimes multiple places at once. How can it be otherwise, really? Eventually a child will grow up and leave his parent’s house, possibly even the city or state in which they live. He’ll get a place of his own and that will now be his home. And yet, he’ll likely still refer to his old residence as “home”. Because where your mom lives is always home…right?
Okay, so here’s the really big question in all this: even though we can see that many places make up our concept of “home”, why do we spend so much time craving a singular image of it? When I say “we”, I mean “me” of course But, I know for a fact I’m not alone in this, so maybe I should just say “some of us”. This is a conversation I’ve had with my mom many times. And I’ve known others on a quest for home. Although my mom spent most of her childhood and early adulthood in Alabama, and although most of our extended family still lives there, she says it has never felt like home to her. I think, perhaps, she feels more at home in Georgia, where she’s spent most of her adulthood (and where she was born), but I don’t know that she really considers it “home” now that my sister and I are no longer there. She doesn’t have anywhere that feels like “home”.
I, on the other hand, am almost the opposite. I grew up in Georgia, but it definitely does not feel like home. It’s only home in the sense that my mom still lives there; I no longer really know many other people there. But, having spent the better part of my life in Georgia, I’m very familiar with it. I know all the places to go, all the things to do. Obviously, familiarity alone does not make a home. Although I’ve never spent much time living there, Alabama feels more like home to me. I was born there and most of my extended family lives there. In my genealogy research I’ve found that my family has very strong, deep roots there. But it’s not like I can get around the place with my eyes closed. I am very much a tourist in that respect. And because we always lived in Georgia I’ve always felt like the outsider. NOT that my family has ever made me feel that way, not at all. It’s just that all my cousins lived close to each other, some even went to school together and I didn’t. So I always kind of felt like I was missing some inside knowledge. Truth be told, as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that I tend to know more about the family as a whole than the rest of them because I’m so freakin’ nosy and make everything and everyone my business. But I digress…
Then there’s Las Vegas. It’s where I live. It’s where my husband and I married (though it was before we lived here!). It’s where my baby was born. It’s where the airplane returns me when I’m done visiting my family “back home”. It’s my home, but it’s never been and never will be my Home. At least, I don’t think so. Heck, I’ve lived here for 6 years and I still don’t know a single radio station. I wonder sometimes how Eva will feel about this place? Even if we moved tomorrow, would she always feel a draw to it? Does the place you’re born leave an invisible mark on you in that way? Or what if she ends up living most of her childhood (or life!) here? Would this seem like home despite the lack of family? Maybe for some people familiarity alone does make a home.
For others home is found when they walk away from the familiarity. Perhaps, for whatever reason, they don’t fit in “back home”. And it isn’t until they reach new territory that they find the comfort and refuge that can define “home”. And then again, some wander from place to place and never find home. Others wander for a while, only to find home waiting for them at the place from which they started their journey. I kind of feel like this whole paragraph describes me! Confusing, yes?
Sometimes I think the whole home searching thing is a relatively new problem. After all, many people in times past lived and died in the same city. My great-grandfather lived and died on practically the same plot of land! Surely he knew without question where his home was. But what if he was one of those people who never felt at home on his native land? Or what if everything changed around him so much in his lifetime that he no longer recognized the home he once knew? Things didn’t change so quickly back then, so it’s not likely this was the case. But I suppose it’s still possible. Now people move so far and so often, it’s really no wonder that some of us are left with a missing piece. What’s really at the root of it though?? Because some people in the world are nomadic and they seem okay with it. Or are they?? Is it personal, cultural, genetic? I come from a long line of farmers; could it be in my DNA to crave land where I can permanently plant myself?
I don’t know. I may never know. I do know I love all my homes. I love the people at all of my homes. I love the memories that are made in all of my homes. I can go to any of them and hang my hat, rest my head and find my heart there.
And maybe that’s enough.