Today, I sit at the airport waiting to get on my umpteenth flight back to my hometown in Western New York. It is cold there (by my standards), especially for late May but I am so looking forward to seeing my family and friends. I have been going back “home” about twice a year, and am trying to wean down to once a year– something almost unimaginable. When I saw this secret posted on Post Secret, I had several mixed feelings. Home has been so many places for me since 2005 when I officially left the home I had known since about 1990 (Any questions, see a post from several months ago 😉 )… but where is my home now? What should I consider home to be?
It’s not that “home” (New York, home) has stopped feeling like home, but maybe it’s that so many things have felt like home that it’s hard to recognize the comfort of “home” when it hits you. Have I moved so often, referred to so many places as home, become de-sensitized to the cozy, comforting feeling that I don’t know what “home” feels like anymore?
After my freshman year of college, I spent that summer at “home” (New York) and my friends came over almost every evening (literally, almost every evening) and we hung out in my mom’s basement and ate party mix and watched Legally Blonde the Musical: the Search for Elle Woods on MTV. After that summer, we all went our ways until December when the group was back together. I will never forget when my friend Jackie walked into the entry way through the garage, inhaled a deep breath through her nose and mouth, sighed and said: “ahhh. Amanda’s house.”
Oh yeah, I guess my house (like everywhere else) has its own smell. After that, I longed to be away from “home” long enough to know that smell and to have the opportunity to take it all in and to know the smell of something so cozy and familiar. About two years later, I walked into my mom’s house and if only for 15 seconds, I inhaled my own deep breath through my nose and mouth and I could smell it. It felt like jingling the bell from Santa’s sleigh in The Polar Express and still being able to hear it years later. It smelled like home.
But here we are in 2013. In plain terms, home has been Webster, Orlando, and Tampa. When I first moved to Tampa (for the second time), it was hard. Home was still Orlando, and home was in my bed in the apartment complex off of International drive. Home was the kittens and my ex who I had moved in with (maybe too soon, and maybe more on this later). Now I was in a single hotel room in Tampa. Alone. I have prided myself on being comfortable with change and my adaptability… but am I? Is anyone? Especially since that uprooting, my idea of home has become incredibly foggy. I have grown roots in Tampa. Church family, friends family, coworkers, a new beau or two; still moving apartments, but such is life.
One of my coworkers grew up in St. Petersburg which is a stone’s throw from downtown Tampa. We had made plans to do something one weekend, and I knew she was also planning to visit home– her parents. In a text message exchange, I asked where she was at. “On my way home,” she replied. I asked for clarification– “To Tampa or St. Pete”?
“Tampa,” she said. “If I was going to St. Pete I would have said ‘to my Parents.””
Oh. Well I guess that makes sense. This small statement really hit home and forced me to have the difficult conversation with myself that I realized I had been avoiding. Home. I guess I should start referring to Tampa as “home” and Webster as…. hometown? Family? Visiting my parents’? What about later in life when Tampa is no longer home? I think I have loved so many places and let so many places into my heart that it’s difficult to be able to define home, and what home is supposed to feel like. Maybe I have exposed myself to so many places that are supposed to be/feel like home that I have become numb and have forgotten what it is like to just be in one place– one “home”– for an extended period of time without being uprooted and relocating myself and my belongings.
I’m not sure what the future holds or what my numerous future “home’s” will look like, but the tradeoff of seeing/visiting/living in new places will always outweigh whatever longing I have for (pretending I enjoy) staying in one place for too long.
What is “home” to you? Is there a place you live now or lived once that will always feel like home to you?