Had dinner with a good friend and former colleague the other night, and we spent the better part of four hours(!) on a rainy evening talking about all sorts of things. We’re each “only children,” who have adult sons (also only children), we’ve cared for aging relatives, we run in the same musical circles and share several years of working in the same small office together. So there’s always plenty of things to discuss, and a couple of glasses of wine make the conversation all the more interesting.
That night we got on the topic of home, and how the concept has changed over the last three generations. It came up
because my son is on the verge of moving from Florida to Texas, and my friend’s son was contemplating a move from Vermont to Maine. My friend and her husband, much like Jim and I, have lived in the same suburban home for the past 30 years.
“I have no desire to move into some big mansion,” S. says, or even to one of the “paradise retirement communities. I’m not a house person,” she admitted. “Don’t care if it’s fancy or big, as long as it’s comfortable and safe and mine.”
I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing, something I might not have done four or five years ago, when I was going through a period of wanting out of my old house in my old neighborhood and yearning for something new and different. Who in the world stays in the same place their entire life, I remember thinking then. And why would you want to?
Interestingly enough, now I know exactly why. There is an unprecedented sense of history in where we live, and although it isn’t momentous in any way, it’s unusual enough in the modern world to suddenly feel very special. To live on a piece of land your father purchased in 1942, to live in a house he helped design and build, to walk the same hallways, sleep in the same room, look out on the same expanse of lawn that you have done for your entire life – that hardly ever happens anymore. Heck, my son has already lived in more places than his dad or I ever have, and he’s about to increase that total by one more…and he’s only just turned 30.
So we were talking about home last night, and S. mentioned that when her husband was planning his 50th high school reunion , he did a survey of his former classmates which posed the question, “Where do you consider home?” Remarkably, many of these 60-somethings named the small town in upper Michigan where they all grew up, even though most of them had been gone from this place for decades. I recalled that my mother in law, who was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, always referred to that city as “home,” even though she spent 55 years in Michigan.
I suppose what feels like home is different for everyone. For me, home is tied up in the three houses here in Redford where I’ve lived since I was six. They’ve sort of morphed into one place that’s home, where my history is. My schools, my childhood friends, my music teacher’s house, the library, the park where I took my son sledding in the winter, the stores where I’ve shopped. This aging suburb contains every bit of my life, every relationship that’s important to me, all of it started here.
Of course, we have our house in Florida, which is lovely and is a nice respite (especially during the winter months). But is that, or could that ever be, home? I don’t feel as if I fit there in Naples, and don’t suspect I ever would, with all the rich retirees and the golfers and the ladies who lunch. And home to me is about fitting, like a piece that clicks perfectly into whatever odd shape the puzzle requires.
Not that there’s anything wrong with moving around, with living in different parts of the country or even the world for that matter. I’m sure you gain great social perspective, develop all kinds of insight, and learn to be adaptable, all necessary skills which scientifically ensure the survival of the species.
But I guess I’m just a home-body, and though I may be part of a dying breed I’m beginning to think you’ll have to drag me kicking and screaming out of this house and into whatever the next place I’ll try to call home will be. Because I may very well live in some other place, but it won’t be home for real. I think that definition has already been set.
So, how about you? Where do you call home?