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On Not Going Home In The First Place

Back from sunny St. Paul, where we went to a nice wedding and got to see a lot of old friends, hung out with the Sofawolf guys, and got badly lost in an area that I used to know like the back of my hand.

Which probably proves something about not being able to go home again.

It’s kinda funny, really. You pick your road and it diverges rapidly from all the others you might have taken—or at least, there’s very dense undergrowth, so even if you’re running parallel, you don’t know it—but every now and then you hit a gap and you get to see down one of those roads for a minute or two.

There was a brief moment, after my divorce, when I almost moved back to St. Paul. Had the logistics not been nightmarish (and I did have friends who would probably have been happy to put me up for a night or two, but my best friend lived in a 300 square foot apartment, so…er…problematic.) I might have done so. I was desperately in need of familiarity right then, and wandering up and down Grand Avenue, seeing the shops I remembered and the ratty apartment buildings and the Vietnamese restaurant that they kept closing for health violations—those were familiar. Five years ago, they would have been even more familiar.

Had I done so, I suspect that I would not have moved again. I would be from St. Paul. That would be HOME, and I’d be a gardener with a growing season lasting about two weeks and a large collection of snow shovels.

For a minute there, I can almost see myself through the gap in the hedge.

I go out there now, and it’s a place I used to live. I feel a great affection and am delighted at all the old landmarks again, but it’s not home. Nothing whacks me in the head or the gut and demands to know where I’ve been.

Then again, by that measure, I’m not entirely sure if anywhere is really home. I hear people rhapsodize about homes and homelands and all that stuff, and I am not entirely sure I’ve ever felt that way about anything. (I feel a certain affection for my computer desktop, but I don’t think that counts.)

Is it genetic? I come from a long line of people who move all over the place. We were immigrants and then we wandered around the country once we got here. Whether we were criminals attempting to evade the law or merely cheerfully adaptable is up for debate, but either way, itchy feet may be in the blood. Upbringing? I think four years was the longest we lived anywhere before I moved out to college. (At nine-years-and-some-change, St. Paul was the longest I’ve lived anywhere.) When people ask where I’m from, I require several sentences to answer. Is there some window in your childhood where you imprint on a place? I feel something in the Arizona desert that seems deeper and heavier than anywhere else. On the other hand, as soon as I cross into North Carolina and see the rest-stop right on the Virginia line, there is a lot of cheering and I feel a bit of a weight lift. Is that what it feels like to be home?

Don’t get me wrong, I can make myself “at home” in a lot of places. I’ve moved umpteen times and settled in and figured out where the grocery store is and gotten used to the color of the walls and the vagaries of the heating system. But I’ve done it so often that it’s a bit like having an arm out of the socket—once you can pop it in and out at will, it really isn’t in there very firmly anymore. Once I move on, I rarely miss the old place specifically very much.

Following my divorce, I spent a stretch wanting to go home and not having anywhere that I could pin down as being home. It wasn’t any one thing I missed, it was just being from SOMEWHERE. I eventually settled on “the last place I lived” because it had a certain immediacy, and also somebody who’d let me sleep in their guest bedroom for a month. And it worked out well, obviously, and I have a hard time imagining moving out of North Carolina again, despite all those lawmakers determined to make us into the laughingstock of the country.

Kevin’s theory is that I am just responding to the proximity of my garden, and that home is where my garden is. There may be a certain amount of truth to that. He himself has a very concrete home. He’s from North Carolina. There is loblolly pine pollen in his bloodstream. I envy that a little. I always wondered if there would be a place I would someday walk into—a city, maybe, or a country, or a landscape—and go “Dude. Right here. This is home. How ’bout that?” Hasn’t happened yet. There are places I’m glad to live, but nothing where I suddenly want to dig in my heels and say “You will pry me out of here when I am dead, and not before.”

On the other hand, I’ve got this garden right here. so maybe I’m as home as I get. I get the sneaking feeling sometimes that I live here now, and this may be where I’m from. Unless Kevin drops dead tomorrow and I get a sudden mad urge to move to the desert, it seems likely that this is where I’ll want to stay. Which is fine by me.

So anyway it was nice to go back to St. Paul. And also educational. Nearly a decade. Someplace I used to live.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.


Yeah, I felt that way about Minneapolis the last time I was there -- I spent 12 years of my life there, and it was *home* (and I ached for it for many years), but the people there were part of what made it home for me, and in the post-high-school-and-college diaspora, most of those people aren't there anymore. It's an odd dislocated feeling (and it's funny that you use that analogy, given that I have Hypermobility-Type EDS and I *can* pop just about anything on my body in and out again, although not always comfortably). and even living 17 years in one state never quite cured it, although I think a part of that is that I never *chose* to move there, I always intended to relocate, but never could achieve financial escape velocity.

And now I'm starting my second year in Texas -- how the hell did I wind up here? (Moved because I got tired of being in a TX/MD long-distance relationship, stayed because there are people dear to me here, said partner included -- but I never quite expected to land here, and I'm still not sure if this is going to be 'home,' either.)

<3!

Whooo Texas-local EDSers high five! Which is like everyone else's high five except we just sit around awkwardly because our arms dislocated when we tried to lift them. XD

Home has always and will always be Nova Scotia. I haven't lived there since 1985 or so but it's still home. I still dream about it and long for the sea and the call of gulls. Ontario is nice but it's not in my blood like Nova Scotia is. I am so thrilled to be heading there for a couple weeks in september!

I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.

I didn't expect to end up in New York when I was seventeen and flying home from Washington where I was visiting relatives. All I knew at seventeen was circling to land in Colorado Springs, staring down at the foothills and having the overwhelming urge to STAY ON THE PLANE.

I knew then Colorado was no longer home for me and would never be home again. Never mind I grew up there and my immediate family is still there.

Driving out to meet my dearly departed husband's family for the first time, we got into west PA and my jaw dropped and I turned to him and declared "Now I'm HOME." It was that gut feeling you describe. I HATED having to drive back to Colorado, even though we were living in Denver, which is head and shoulders above the Springs in a lot of ways. As soon as we could, we moved back to his home town. Well, technically two towns over, but still part of his "Tri-City Area".

And now I cannot hear "Tri-... Area!" without it being in the Doofenshmirtz voice from Phineas and Ferb. Yes, I have pre-teen children. How could you tell?

After living four places in the last ten years, my philosophy is "Home is where the cat is".

I agree wholeheartedly, save for this rubbish notion of cat being used as a singular noun. I'm only familiar with it in the plural. ;)


I've lived in Florida most of my life.
Wandered all over the place. Born in Jamaica, spent time in Malaysia and Australia, visited many American sites... but London or Bristol calls me.
I can visit areas in those cities that I have never been to before and I KNOW them. Locals ask me where things are! It's odd. Sometimes home is where you have spent very little time.
But it is HOME.

My theory on homes is there are several different kinds; some people have a place, others a person/people/thing (like a garden), and for some, home is where they are. These are the one who wander the country selling brushes and fixing pots.

That said- I've been in Washington state for two-thirds of my life and still consider myself a displaced North Dakotan... and a small part of me considers home to be wherever my parents are (17 or so miles thataway).

I realized I'm a Midwesterner when I was looking at Ketchikan, AK for a job and thought, "What do they grow there?" When your first thought on potentially moving somewhere isn't rent or the price of milk but what sort of agricultural base there is, you might be from Iowa.

Well, as the lady in the gift shop told me when I asked her how she liked living in Ketchikan, "oh, it's okay as long as you can get off the rock once in a while." That was when I knew I wasn't moving to Southeast Alaska [g].

Gearworld may have been like that for you for a while? It seemed to have a lot of the same emotional character we had when living in exile, but perhaps I was projecting.

Also, two-week growing season or not, in our corner of the Twin Cities oregano taller than badgers isn't a joke.

What is this "home" thing to which you refer?

For me, home is other people, but it's not really somewhere that I stay. It's ... a visit to renew.

I have a house. I live here, my stuff lives here. My husband and children lives here, our dogs and cats and rats and books live here. It's not home, and never will be.

Same here. I don't have a fixed "home" that feels like the place I belong. And I've been living within a five mile radius for the past 25+ years. It feels comfortable, but it doesn't have the kind of "home" concept at all. Wonder if I would feel it if I went back to the town of my birth (which is on a different continent, and I'm highly unlikely to visit in the foreseeable future.)

I always wondered if there would be a place I would someday walk into—a city, maybe, or a country, or a landscape—and go “Dude. Right here. This is home. How ’bout that?”

I have never lived more than 65 miles from the hospital in which I was born in KCMO. All movement was west, furtherst point was three years in Topeka. Yes, that's aggresively pathetic. Such is life.

I have had that moment you describe once: in London in 2005 on the way to Glasgow for the Worldcon that year. I liked Dublin and Glasgow both, don't get me wrong, but the moment I started walking around there I just felt "right," in a way that I had never experienced before or since. It was at once exhilarating and incredibly sad, knowing I wouldn't be getting back there any time soon.

you know you guys are always welcome here in SoCal

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Many people in the USofA reply to this question by differentiating where they're "from" from where they "live".

I "live" in SW Colorado, but I'm "from" Connecticut.

That old cliche about home being where the heart is seems so very apt for you and Kevin, and I'm strangely happy that this is so.

I will always be a Michigander; I don't have to live there, but every time I go back I get a little homesick. The terrain is right. The vegetation is right. The architecture is right. I didn't realize I could miss architecture until my last trip back a few years ago! The area around Detroit is where I grew up, and it's pretty well imprinted me.

That said, I spent less than 1/3 of my life there, and I've learned to make a home where I am. OTOH, I say, "I'm not a Texan, I just happen to live here," and that's perfectly true. I'll also never be a Southerner, no matter how long I live in the Old Confederacy (39 years and counting at this point).

I don't seriously want to move back to Michigan (especially not now, with the goddamn teahadists in control of the government!), but I do want the option of visiting now and then.

I grew up in a teeny miserable town in California. If CA has a bible belt, my town was it. I was SO FREAKING HAPPY to move away for college, and for a while, my college town was "home". But when I moved away, and so did all the people I went to school with, it stopped being "home" and I didn't have one for a while. My "hometown" wasn't, and I was so unhappy there that, out of desperation, I accepted a random offer from an almost perfect stranger to move to Oakland, a city where I didn't know anyone, and I had only heard horrible things about.

Now, four years later, I'm married to my almost perfect stranger, and Oakland is so definitely "home" that it hurts sometimes to be away. When I return from a trip, there's a point where you can smell the Bay, and see the hills, and it feels so amazing to be back. I was certainly not expecting it; I fully intended to live in Oakland for only as long as it took to get a job and an apartment in San Francisco, but now, you'd have to pry me out of here with... well, probably an earthquake, if we're being realistic. My family-of-choice ("friends" is too weak a term) lives here, my husband lives here, my cats live here, but even without all of that, I love Oakland. It's such a beautiful city, with such an awful reputation; I feel like it's a misunderstood villain, and really all it needs is a hug and some patient understanding. When I ride my bike up into the Oakland hills, I stand at the top and look out over my city and I am just unutterably happy to be able to call it "home".

I live in a town about an hour north of you, and I get precisely the same feeling when I come home. All I need is a sighting of The Bay Area (or a scenting, because that is seriously so true) and it's like I need to throw a party.

Sometimes I want to go away for awhile just to come home and feel as Damn Good as I feel when I come home.

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