Tuesday, December 13, 2005


I was helping Jwife write a couple of essays the other night. One of her topics was about home. I was shocked to see that this seemingly benign (even warm and fuzzy) topic disturbed her as much as it does me.

There's no place like home....There's no place like home.....

I never got it. People will ask me where I'm from and I'm basically dumbfounded.
"I'm from here," I'll try out.
"Oh, you were born in Boston?"
"No, I was born in Pittsburgh."
"So, you're from Pennsylvania. How is Pennsylvania?"
"I have no idea. I only lived there until I was three months old."
It's really no wonder that I'm so bad at small talk. I can't even get past the most basic element of small talk without going into a tale of being moved out of every home I ever knew. I've never known how to answer this question. Sometimes I'll just say, "New York," and try to get away before further explanation is required.
"Where in NY? The city or upstate?"
"Well, I lived in Westchester for about 2 years and then about 5 other towns further upstate."
I never get out of this conversation without feeling horribly uncomfortable, like the words "New Kid" are still emblazoned on my forehead. It almost seems that when people hear how I can't even identify a "home", they realize that I must be a little off. And, admittedly, I am a little off. I'm not one of those people who embraced the moving and came to think that moving to new places was exciting and full of new opportunity. I just saw it for the loss that it always was to me. I'd lose friends, a hard won feeling of fitting in with some group that had adopted me, and just simple security. And I think, to this day, I don't really ever feel like I belong anywhere. I feel comfortable. I've chosen a place to call home, and usually I'm pretty happy. But sometimes, without notice or without cause, that homesick feeling will creep into my stomach.
Do you know this feeling? I've had it as long as I can remember. I remember feeling it was when I has in grade school, even preschool.....from the first time that my parents told me that we were going to move. I stood at the window of my bedroom and looked down on my friends playing in the next door yard. And just cried and cried. I didn't even want to play with them anymore. I was only 4 years old, but I knew that I was not with them anymore, so I just stayed at the window and cried over the first friends I would lose in the move. I could hear their voices at the window....fading already.
The most striking time that I remember this feeling was when I realized that it wasn't going to let me off the hook, even in times that I felt stable and convinced myself that I was home. We were living in my grandma's house in upstate NY. It was the place that was most constant home during most of my childhood, so it shocked me when I felt that homesick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was sitting in my room, in the sunshine of the summer sun coming through my window. I was happy, playing with the cat. And all of the sudden, my stomach dropped. For no reason, I just felt so homesick and utterly alone. I started to cry, and then just sat and tried to reason with myself...."You are home, weirdo! Stop crying!" (I was 9....that would be nine year old reasoning) I got so mad at that feeling on that day. So incredibly angry that it could sneak up on me even when I felt happy, safe, and as close to home as I had ever been.
I still get this feeling. Just the other day, as I was driving home after Little A's Holiday concert, in the car, it hit me. Though my external reaction to it is more subdued than it used to be, I still hate it with all of my heart. Especially now, when I've tried to make this place my home for years, it still comes to punch me in the stomach at the most unexpected times. But what I can I do? I usually just have to take a deep breath, acknowledge it and realize that I may never feel like I'm home because I never had the home to go back to. There's never been that place to return to....a constant place that I knew would always be there for me to find safety and comfort. Home is a thing I've longed for since my very first memories and I'm still searching. I hope, in the least, that I'm able to create that place for Little A, but I'm afraid I'm woefully unqualified having never had it myself.


Blogger BC said...

I have the same reaction you do to the "where are you from" question. I was born in Upstate NY, moved to Houston when I was 3, then moved back upstate, but to many many different towns and houses. I only had to change schools 3 times, but I know how you feel. I don't have a "Home", someplace that contains thousands of fond memories and moments. This is the exact reason Justin and I will buy ONE house, and live in it until we die. We both agree that that is the best life to have. A HOME, where your children, and your grandchildren always come back to. A home that becomes familiar and wonderful!

11:31 AM  
Blogger V said...

Yeah, that's what I want too. Although Little A already seems unnaturely attached to our crappy apartment. blah! I look at people like they're out of their bloody mind when they serioudly suggest I might move somewhere else. WHY on earth would I do that?? I like it too, when houses get passed down. My ex grew up in the house that his mother grew up in. I think it's such a nice comfy feeling to have that kind of continuity. That house holds so many family memories...yuh know?

11:49 AM  
Anonymous roo said...

V, I wonder if those feelings are part of the reason you've learned to excell at so many home-making skills: cooking, canning, weaving, knitting, quilting, decorating, even managing your money and being able to shop brilliantly on the cheap... You've learned to make your own nest, so your home is always with you.

Your apartment is becoming so beautiful-- proof of how you're blooming now that you've finally been able to grow roots.

1:56 PM  
Blogger V said...

Aww thanks roo! I guess between this and the Little House on the Prairie syndrome....I was bound to do many of these things. I am liking my apt better these days....but we all know of my house-lust. :)

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

What's with all the upstate NY people? I'm from the Syracuse area originally (we call it Central NY, but I know anything north of "the city" is commonly referred to as "upstate")

Anyway. You know, I can't shake this feeling that I've never felt anyplace to be home. I actually lived outside of Syracuse until I went to college, had a happy home life but could not WAIT to go to college. Since college, I've moved several times, and never felt like anyplace is "home..." Where we are now (northern VA) seems more home than anywhere else, but I still wonder what I'm looking for when I think about "home."

Is it a sense of continuity, remaining in one place that you are looking for in your quest for home? I think for me, it's some sense of coziness and comfort, order and peace that I haven't achieved. hmm. Good food for thought, maybe for a future post of my own -- thanks! :-)

7:51 PM  
Blogger V said...

Haha Nancy....I usually call it Central NY too, but I've found that most people won't accept it....so for the general public, it's city v. upstate. (Btw...my cat is from Syracuse! I used to live in Homer....so I know it well!)
Yeah, continuity is really a big part of it for me. I feel like it's a big part of the reason that I have a horrible memory...kids remember things that look and feel the same.....every year...things they do...traditions...that are constant and reinforced every year. And I think it really forms who you are or at least a sense of where you're from (whether that's a place or a culture or whatever) And those are memories that are just not a part of who I am, knowing what/where I'm from, for the most part, and I think it's a big part of why I can feel so homeless sometimes. Yuh know what I mean?
Thanks for stopping in! :)

7:24 AM  
Anonymous roo said...

I think you're right about memories living in our material environment. I remember your comment about how I seem to remember an awful lot about my early years. I'm willing to bet that the fact my parents still live in the house I grew up in has something to do with it.

10:22 AM  

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