While they say a home is not the walls and beams that hold it up, there is something to be said for the familiarity of it all. The remaining bits of sticky tack on plastered walls where posters of teen heartthrobs once hung, the paint on the carpet from an art project gone awry—these are the catalysts for memories evoked.
My mom moved away from the home I grew up in while I was at school. She left for San Antonio, only to return to Sugar Land the following year. But my bedroom is no more, the posters and stuffed animals long gone or boxed away, who knows where. Home is where the heart is, they say. But I didn’t feel this way when I moved back in June, into a home without a shared history, where I could still count the cumulative weeks spent.
Instead, home was the block on which I ran wildly to catch shuttles in the blistering cold. Where I made more almost-midnight runs to Taco Bell than I care to count. Where I first discovered what snow tastes like. Where I walked down the block to [Panera/Cosi/Unicorn] to do homework, but really did everything but. Where I caught a whiff of Indian food every time I stepped into the stairwell, courtesy of Bombay Indian Grill next door. Where the buzzer startled me almost every time. Where all the crazy shit I did those nights, those were the best memories.
Sometime over the course of the past five months, I was having the conversation I’ve had more than any other conversation in the past five months: the What Are You Doing With Your Life conversation. And I was giving the same well-rehearsed spiel. But this time, he asked me if I’ve learned to appreciate it more, being at home. After all, you want what you can’t have, and I hadn’t had a lot of time at home in the recent past.
Preparing to answer, I issued a disclaimer—I didn’t want would follow to be misinterpreted. But no, I couldn’t say that I was particularly enjoying the “time off,” or that I’d discovered a newfound appreciation for home.
For lots of reasons. I couldn’t bask in the comfort of knowing the expiration date this time around. And while I love spending time with my mom and noting all her quirks, I couldn’t (still can’t) ignore the silent monologue, the one that made me feel anxious and restless and ready. Home had always been an interlude, a hiatus between this and that. I wasn’t ready for that to change…
I’m still not. But as my first Thanksgiving at home in four years approaches, I’ve realized that home is fungible. And I’ve come to appreciate this one, to embrace this relenting time, and the days during which my most laborious activity involves putting milk in my cereal and pizza rolls (delicious) in the oven.
Home is about more than a zip code. It’s where we regroup and replenish, discover and rediscover. And I’ve learned that home can reinvent itself, as we unearth gems on previously unknown corners down previously untraveled streets. Great hole-in-the-walls and their grease-laden Tex-Mex; friendships, old and new. Sure, home is a place of comfort and familiarity, and it’s also the one place where we will inevitably return. We go off to college; we take jobs in far-away cities, for the allure of exploring an undiscovered city more than anything else. As we check off these sites on a map of the world, home always gets a second chance, and a third and a fourth and a fifth…
And, lucky for us, we can have more than just one.