Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Is Home?

When I was 17, my mother got divorced again and we moved for what I noticed was the seventeenth time.  I thought that was pretty impressive until I realized that meant that I had moved 16 times by the time I was 9.  I was just coming off of what was for me a fairly stable 8 years.  I had never moved across the country (yet) or the world like some people have, for jobs, etc.  I have lived in the same region of the U.S. all my life.  So all of these moves were pretty local, but did usually involve school changes, etc.  My mother would tell everybody it didn't matter because I was a smart kid.  (Smart enough not to tell her things: like that I had known how to spell for much longer than she had been spelling stuff out over the phone to hide things from me.)  Naturally my sense of 'home' is not so traditional.

At different times, as I was growing up, the place where I lived would change so quickly that I didn't even have a chance to say goodbye to classmates or neighbors.  We once had to leave within a few hours because my mother's boyfriend was getting out of jail and she didn't want him to come after us again.  We moved everything we could get out fast, and ended up in a whole new city by that night.  I suppose if I had come to think of home as a place, I would have ended up pretty messed up.  I did have some strong connections that stayed in place with several people over time and I think that helped to keep me sane.

Our houses or apartments were never great for most of my life, but they were clean and fairly well maintained.  Then when my mother married her last husband, that all changed.   It turned out he was extremely obsessive compulsive and a chronic hoarder.  It is still hard for me to say which is worse- a household ruled by the chaos of domestic violence or the weird world of having stuff slowly close in all around you.  One day you look around and there's just no home left.

For many people 'home' is where their parents still live or the place they were born.  Obviously, not so for me.  I have a friend who still lives in her childhood home.  Her parents both died early.  She is very attached to the idea of  home as a place.  She hasn't truly changed much about the house she lives in since she inherited it, and had never spent much time living out on her own before that.  To me, it feels like that house is not really her home at all, but a tribute to her parents.
I have another friend who is so good about giving everything a 'homey' touch.  She likes to feel at home wherever she goes.  She even brings beautiful scarves on trips with her so she can drape them over lamps in hotel rooms.  I have helped this friend move several times over the last few years and yet she demonstrates the best example of what home really is to me.  I have grown to love this idea that home can be anything or anywhere as long as you have people that you love in your life and maybe a few familiar or meaningful things.

I have been told that my house is very peaceful.  I hope that I always make people feel at home.

1 comment:

  1. I, too, have moved a lot. I suppose I now think of it as the keeper of your memories for the past homes. Current homes are just where you feel comfortable. Now moving is all about shedding things instead of hoarding them.


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