No Place Like Home
When I say I’m moving home, I actually have no idea where I’m going next. I just mean I’m relocating my person from this home to a new location yet to be determined – a new home of sorts.
All this home coming, going, and relocating has me in a bit of a tailspin. It got me to pondering, what does home actually mean to me?
If you’re like me (which I assume you may be since you’re reading this) the whole concept of “home” tends to be a bit murky.I am admittedly one of those annoying people who looks at you puzzled if you ask me where I’m from. And with good reason- this year I realized that I’ve officially been traveling for about half of my life.
I decided to spend some time at home doing some research on the topic. (That means I googled what other smart people have to say about the meaning of home).
The traditional definition of home looks something like this:
home /hōm/ : n. The place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household
I’ve never been very traditional, so it isn’t a surprise that this definition doesn’t really fit me at all. I looked a bit further, and while I didn’t find a better definition, I found these two famous poets who seem to think more like I do.
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” – Robert Frost
“Where thou art, that is home.”- Emily Dickinson
The Robert Frost school of thought makes me think of that moment in immigration after landing in the US when the officer hands my passport back and says “Welcome Home”. (I realize not everyone is greeted like this when flying into the USA, but I hope you at least feel at home when you land in your own country).
To me “home” is the open doors of friends and family around the world. It is the places where I belong by default
Home is also the places and spaces that I find most familiar. Home is in the kitchen of my dad’s house in Florida and Peregrine Espresso on Washington DC’s capitol hill. I feel strangely at home while whizzing across Bangkok by sky train, running across the Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam, or running up the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial.
But even more important than space and place, home is about the people I belong to.
It isn’t only the familiar view from dad’s kitchen window that make his house in Florida a home to me- it the hugs from my nephews that won’t give me a minute to myself when I come to visit. At Peregrine, it isn’t the espresso that makes me feel at home as much as it is the morning coffee crew that shares laughter over morning lattes and adds life to each day’s beginning.
When I returned to Cambodia, after my recent trip home, I was so glad spend a night in my own bed after 34 days on the road sleeping in 16 different places (12 beds, 3 planes and 1 airport floor). I was happy to turn the key my door and walk into my physical house after a long journey, but a key and a door do not a home make.
What truly made my homecoming feel like home were the familiar faces. The smiles and greeting from the guard of my building who has opened the gate for me every day for the past three years. The waving tuk tuk drivers on my corner who flagged me down to tell me welcome back.
Coming home, or being home is a little bit like the old Cheers theme song, “You want to go where everybody knows your name.”
When Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz clicked her sparkly red heels together and said “There’s No Place Like Home”, I don’t think she did so because she was missing her 2 bedroom house in Kansas. I think she was just ready to get back to the place she belonged and the people she belonged too.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a person who has the dictionary sort of home, but I’m grateful to have lived a full home-life in the Emily Dickson sense wherever I’ve been. Today I’m home here. Tomorrow home elsewhere. But always home with the people I love.
Where are you at home?