A question of home

Home is a hard concept for me, or maybe it’s just hard for me to reconcile it with the usual societal notions of home. Maybe that’s a part of growing up, learning that societal notions are rough guildelines and not strict rules, many of which are set up by people who do not have your best interests at heart.

I’ve been home in the US since mid-May. I got here in time to spend the little time my dad had left, and for that I’m enormously grateful. And I was able to be here for my mom, and for me.

And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of months. Grieving, logistics, supporting my mom, and having a brief getaway weekend to see a ton of friends in New York City. And seeing family from Mexico! People I haven’t seen in years.

Home is absolutely awesome, and home is a very hard thing. Because while I’m here, my friends and family back, er, home, I’m away from them.

Do we call the address on our driver’s license home? I have two. Do we call the place where we grew up home? I have, like, six. Is it where family lives (note that I include friends under the moniker of family)? I’ve got people on at least three continents.

My mom and I (and sometimes my dad) would go to Mexico every summer to be with her side of the family, at least for a few weeks. When I was young, it was just a trip, it was what we did. But the moment I got married and moved to live with the Mister on the other side of the world — it wasn’t so normal or usual anymore. I don’t know how my mom did this every year.

It makes you feel vaguely like a monster, wanting to leave and not wanting to leave, the faint guilt of missing someone and being willing to be away from another person you love to go be with them a while.

So what is home? That’s a question I’m tackling in my doctorate. What is home, how do we define it, how does it define us? How does it limit us and give us strength? For years I had a deep struggle with leaving New York — I used to feel like leaving that town was admitting defeat. I never imagined a neutral or even happy withdrawal.

Over the years, it began to sink in that I’m bigger than any one place. They can inform me, but none define me exclusively. As a working title of the creative portion of my doctorate I’ve been using a line from a Talking Heads song — “Naive Melody”. The opening like is “Home is where I want to be.”

Just like I recast the role and importance of place in how it informs who I am, I recast the grammar in the line. It can read “I want to be home right now” or it can read “home is defined as the place where I want to be at any given time.”

I prefer the latter. It’s easily the truth, and it gives me the freedom to not feel locked to just thinking of one place as home.

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