My sad, stressed-out brain, one morning at work: “I want to go home.”
Me: “What home do you mean?”
Upon reflection, I didn’t mean my Yosemite tent-cabin – although, without another six hours to go on the clock, I’d have gratefully settled for that.
That was before the employee housing office handed me and Tirzah a third roommate – who is, first impressionally, a not unpleasant young lady. But to my highly sensitive, germophobic, and socially anxious self, no space I have to share with an outsider is strictly safe. And if I feel unsafe, how can I feel truly at home?
For ages, home was my parents’ house. It had my stuff. My food. My family.
Many a dream transported me back to the condo called home for my first seven years – to the patio off the living room, and its view of the pond with its willows and ducks.
Most fond memories take place in the little yellow house that followed – three years of horsing around in the basement; making crafts during cartoons in the TV room; more hours of playing, writing, and learning on the computer than you’d think a single day could hold.
Then the place I’ve lived the longest – our Victorian beast in a Michigan-shore ghetto. The house that first gave me my own bedroom, and (after years of begging) a dog. The heavy sliding doors that compartmentalized half of the first floor. The kitchen too laughably small for all five of us at once. The stuffy attic braved only for necessities like fancy clothes and drum practice. The computer room with its cantankerous printers. The sun room with its karate-sweat mats and invasive ladybugs. The driveway that never seemed longer than in winter, when it was covered in snow and the blower was busted, so out came the shovels, day after day.
This was home. Until I outgrew it. There is – and is no – going back.
On vacation, home’s wherever you happen to leave your bags. The hotel or hostel or guest room you ditch to explore and to experience; to shop and sightsee; to get sick of your companions, all your good times saved for later in Polaroids … disposable cameras … digital cameras … selfies. Then back you go, to flop wearily onto questionable comforters, surfing through the local channels for anything fun or familiar, wondering where dinner’s coming from – head back out, or order in? Depends how sunburned, waterlogged, footsore you feel.
That room’s your home base, ‘til the traveling’s done. But you know it’s no more than a placeholder.
I called Germany home, however half-true it was. (The forest truer than the house shared with [never mind him].)
I called that apartment behind a Chicago store home, however temporarily.
I may sometimes call home the down-the-mountain destination for which Tirzah and I fight public transportation every weekend. Her parents’ home. Where I happened to leave most of my bags.
Me: “Is that where you meant? Or there? There? Or there?”
Heart: “You know where we mean.”
I don’t know exactly where. I don’t know precisely when. But what is meant, I know.
Home will mean my stuff. My food. My Tirzah.
Safety. Privacy. Solitude.
Adult annoyances, doubtless. Rent, utilities, homesteader headaches.
Not all of it fun. But all of it ours.
That place at the end of your vacation … exile … odyssey,
where you stagger in late, let your bags drop for the last time,