home n. the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.
I am often frustrated with my surroundings…especially when it comes to the place where I live; the place that I call home. When I lived in my childhood town of Teaneck, N.J., I wanted desperately to leave to go to school in Rhode Island. Providence was the place where my dreams were waiting for me. For the most part, this was true. Independence, my husband, my dog, my first real house – all of these things began, fittingly in a place called Providence. But after many a harsh winter and a dwindling economy without career growth in site it lost it’s luster and Brooklyn was where I was bound. Brooklyn – with it’s too small apartments and hipster neighbors. The flash and fury and life outside my door was home for a time. Yet after years of being stuck in subway tunnels and walking past piles of sewage smelling garbage, I ended up full circle back in Jersey with an expansive yard and looming maples – the picture perfect version of what every person thinks they want. Now I stand in my quaint, eclectic home with my husband of 10 years, 2 year old son, 9 year old dog, piles of things I have collected and made in order to call this house, this place a “home”…and yet I am still not sure that it is. My past homes beckon and the unknown future homes tempt…often. When I think about where I am right now, I don’t want to be here 10 years from now (good thing my husband agrees.) I used to think it was the places that I lived that made me bored and tired, yearning for change, but now I think I have a different definition of the word home than the sage and wise, old OED. Home is not just a “permanent place” – it is many things…
“Hot and heavy pumpkin pie
Chocolate candy Jesus Christ
Ain’t nothing please me more than you”
Perhaps it is my Italian heritage and upbringing, but home involves a combination of good food and people I love. One cannot exist without the other. Home is a sensory experience – the smell meatballs roasting in the over, musty old books on the shelf, the cadence of voices echoing off of the walls during a quiet night. The clanking of the heat in the winter and rain storms battling the glass of the skylights. My home is also filled with the people I love and the good and bad memories we make within the confines of our walls. It’s the times when the baby was sick and we spent the whole weekend in the family room playing with Duplos despite the beautiful Spring weather. The special occasions and family parties that bowed out the walls with people. Or just the evenings curled up on the faded leather sofa with the dog, some cheese and a few glasses (or bottles) of wine. These moments and sensory experiences don’t happen because I live in a 3 bedroom bungalow. They happen because we are home.
“I saw the streets all ripe with jewels
Balconies and the laundry lines
They tried to make me welcome there
But their streets did not feel like mine”
Just like every other 25 – 65 year old with some extra cash and living in the tri state area – I love to travel. I won’t bore you with my impressive list of cities and countries or tell you how I reminisce over the intricate ceramic tiles of Lisbon over glasses of Fonseca Tawny. That would be annoying, not about “home”, and just like every other New Yorker you know. I love to travel because it makes me leave my home. It makes me appreciate how fortunate I am on a daily basis. In some ways, the places I travel to feel a little like home in a few days, but never fully the way it feels when I actually am home. I’ve walked down countless cobbled streets and fallen in love with too many European alleyways. During my travels, I often daydream about what it would be like to make some of these new places my home, always leaving out the actual toil and strife that would ensue if we ever did make that decision. Because the grass is always so much greener and my brain seems to leave out the memories of how much work went into where I have ended up. In the end, I always look forward to being back; returning to hugs and familiar smells, dirty floors and dog hair squalls. The good and the bad that make up the everyday that I take for granted so often.
I suppose the word “permanence” is important when defining the word home. The fact that I can count on all of the things I return to and leave from every morning and night still being there at -my will – as long as I can get there – even if only in my memories. When you speak with someone about home, they often go back to their childhood or a time in their life, a memory or feeling they had that creates their definition of home. I remember my father speaking fondly of growing up in Manhattan and my mother lovingly of her childhood home in Leonia, NJ. The stories were rich and filled with countless memories and stories. Home is permanent in that we can remember it forever. It is not the city, the edifice or the bric-a-brac that make a place a home. Home is the stage, a diorama for our minds – set for memories to be made. Our permanent and portable journal that inspires us, challenges us, forces us to leave and come back, teaches us how to love.
It’s where I want to be.