What does the word “home” mean? I’m not talking about a physical structure but more broadly, about the place you feel content and most at peace. The place where you breathe a little easier and feel deep, simple joy. In kidspeak, where is your “Happy Place?”
Obviously, a house can become a home, but it is not always a happy place. So, more generally I’m asking about geography. I moved a lot during childhood, attending 21 schools. My parents moved like migratory birds. If we were on the East Coast, they hated the winters and were tired of non-stop family obligations.
Plus, for my father, there was the dreaded work slog into Manhattan from our home on Long Island.
Yet, when we moved to the warmer West, Las Vegas to be specific, they both quickly missed the relatives, the change of seasons, and the fact that a new season of Broadway shows had premiered without them in attendance.
Back and forth we moved. The longest I lived in one place as a child was three years. Again, 21 schools represent a lot of schlepping! Military kids, uprooted from base to base, country to country had nothing on me!
When I lived in NY, I said I was from the West. When we moved to Las Vegas, I declared I was a Big Apple kid to the core.
Now I’m an adult. My husband and I have moved multiple times — Reno, Las Vegas, Washington, DC, Berkeley, and now back to Reno. That said, we still don’t rival my peripatetic parents.
As for my husband, this recent return to Reno was his choice. It’s his childhood home — there’s that word, “home.”
Jon has traveled the globe, loves art and new sights. But the Biggest Little City in the World is where his heart is. There’s the comfort of childhood friends and familiar places. The memories that bubble up seemingly on every block.
But it’s more than that. He also loves the open spaces, the snow-capped mountains, and dry, sage-scented air. The laid-back pace. The plaid shirts. The cowboy boots. He loves it all.
I, on the other hand, yearn for NYC. Like my parents, I am a Broadway baby. I go to NYC and see as many shows as the calendar permits, make pilgrimages to museums, fress on pastrami at the deli, and yack non-stop with family and friends.
There’s one more thing I do in NY; I walk until my feet scream, “No more.” Some people hike. I city-walk. My “home” is not on the plains, as the old cowboy song proclaimed, but in the canyons of wide city streets surrounded by skyscrapers. (Home is also Bloomingdale’s, but that’s probably a statement of the obvious!)
Just last month I made my first trip “home” since the pandemic began. Three years without a return to NYC was heart-achingly hard. Something was missing. It wasn’t just the absence of favorite people and places, but something intangible. I missed my tribe! The wisecracking bus drivers, the rushed waiter at the deli, and the crowds on Fifth Avenue, also Broadway, pushing and pulsing with places to go and people to meet!
My husband loves the smell of sagebrush. Me? I’m all in for chestnuts roasting and whatever is hot off the grill from the street vendors falafel cart.
This illusive sense of place is something I’ve long considered in a professional context. I ran a refugee resettlement program and the people I was fortunate (honestly, blessed) to work with were forced to flee their homelands for fear of religious or political persecution. Still, even as they worked hard to re-build lives and adapt to a new “home,” language and culture, they often longed for all that was lost.
It was about that deep sense of belonging and being among your own.
Home is where the heart is — so goes the popular refrain. That’s true but it’s often where you’re from — except apparently Winnipeg. My girlfriend grew up there and she says she doesn’t miss “home” at all.
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