What draws me back, what brings about the comfort of home are the people that I have known and have met in each of these places. The relationships that have built and molded and created the person I am now. The people I have learned from, grown with, laughed with, did really stupid things with. Seeing these faces, being surrounded by their laughter, feeling their hugs, that’s what feels like home. That’s what makes me miss a place.
My "home" history is as follows: I was born in North Carolina, but we only lived there for about 6 months after I was born. We moved back to New York, where my parents had grown up and most of our extended family was living at the time. When I was 9, we moved to Signal Mountain, TN (a suburb of Chattanooga), where we lived until I went to college. I went to school in Nashville, and we lived there for four years after graduation. Then we moved to Massachusetts, and have been here for 12 years. It was actually 12 years yesterday, which is actually kind of shocking to me but besides the point. In the meantime, my parents lived in Annapolis, MD for 11 years and have been near Wilmington, NC for 7 years. My husband’s family has lived in St. Louis throughout. So, physically, home has been a lot of places.
So, what did I learn on summer vacation?
I learned that although I don’t remember much about living in New York, I remember spending much of our time with our cousins. Two of my cousins came down to North Carolina for a week, where we spent most of our vacation time, and the time and distance between visits don’t matter because being with them feels like home. Digging our toes in the sand, a dance party, family dinners, a shared history. That feels like home.
I learned that although I never lived in Maryland when my parents were there, my brother and sister went to high school there, and my other sisters lived there for many years, too. Their connection to that area is much stronger than mine, but their friends, they became a part of our family. And their friendships extend to all of us. I saw this through their actions in helping make Mary’s recent stay at NIH easier for her and for our family. And those actions, those relationships make it feel like home.
I learned that what I miss about Chattanooga is people. This is the city I say I am from, having spent most of my most formative, growing up years there. I went back for my high school reunion in July, and it couldn’t have been more clear that it is the people that are home to me. People who I’ve known since before I knew much about myself. People who know my entire family, not just me. People who helped me figure out different parts of who I am. Friends. And seeing all of these faces, it was coming home.
And I learned that visiting our famillies, no matter where they live, will always feel like home. It just does. No matter how old I am, how many kids I show up with. Being with family is home.
And now, we are back in our house in Massachusetts. Twelve years is almost as long as I’ve lived anywhere else. I would say we've put down roots as a family, as “grown-ups” out on our own. Bought a house. Had three kids. Worked. Played. Met great people and formed strong friendships. It is as much of a home to us as anywhere else, but I’ve been dragging my feet a little bit since we got back. I keep thinking about how far removed we are from all of these people we just visited, and how visits aren’t as easy anymore. Not only is the physical distance long, but the obligations we all have these days fill our time so visits aren't as easy to make. But then I remember that the people that made those places seem like home again, well, many of them were going back to the places where they hang their hats now. And we are getting back into the swing of things here, and the comfortable feelings of this house return. Spending time in this kitchen with friends feels like home. And our neighbors, they make this home. And our friends, they bring the smiles and the fun. And we’re home again.
Glinda the Good Witch said, “Are you ready now? Then close your eyes, and tap your heels together three times.” Remember, there’s no place like home. There is no place like home. If only it was that easy.
Be good. Be strong.