Calling Home

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 

Home - May 22, 2010


 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?


6 thoughts on “Calling Home

  1. Belgians don’t move that much…since we live in a small country it is usually possible to commute to a new job if needed from where you live. It is said we are born with “a brick in our stomac” since most Belgians dream of owning their own house which they’ve designed , upgraded, renovated etc. Sometimes I wonder if there’s ever Belgians not in the midst of some redecorations or renovations.

    Personally we’ve purchased our house and partially rebuilt it ourselves and spent a whole lot of time designing & working in it. We’ve dreamt how we could raise a family here, which functions the different rooms could have, how we could entertain guests, etc… We’ve envisioned our lives here in that process. I would not dream about moving now, …I would have simply not put in all the effort & money if this was to be a temporary home.

    But I agree that home is just as much the city you live in, the familiarity of the neighbourhood stores, the chances of running into some acquaintances on the street, the stories you have to tell on the different places in the neighbourhood. That is what truly makes one feel at home. So why move? I totally don’t get that North-American moving fever. It drives me nuts. I can’t believe what it’s like to have to start over so often. Yikes. I truly don’t get that at all.

    • Thanks for sharing the Belgian perspective…I think that’s the way many American’s felt after the Second World War when my parents were starting out. Of course, earilier in American history there were always pioneers searching for something new, bigger, and better, and that’s how the country expanded the way it did.

      Your home sounds lovely, and you’ve obviously worked very hard to make it “yours” in all ways. I hope you have many happy years and memories there!

  2. Like you, I’m an only child who had the aging parents thing. And like you, I’ve always lived here, in Lansing. All 58 years. So did my parents.

    It’s interesting because part of me always wanted to be somewhere else — and maybe a little bit still. But most of me wants to stay put. I love my little house, my neighborhood, my old neighborhood, the one before that… I love that I can walk the campus I walked as a student and remember those times.

    Sometimes it makes me a little sad, because as you know, our area is pretty hard hit economically, and it’s a little tough to go downtown (especially on a weekend when you could bowl in the streets, it’s so quiet) and it’s not as I remember it. But it’s still home.

    And in a way — and I think you’ll get this — the moving about that’s so common now is hard for the family structure. I’m glad I was here when my parents were ill; glad I didn’t have to hit the road at the holidays, or have folks invade my space for a week when they were visiting me! I see families so spread out now, and it’s tough. Really tough.

    And interestingly enough, I still call my cousin’s cottage (our old family one, before my family bought a different place a half mile away) our “ancestral home,” my mother having spent summers there since her birth. And the cousins call it the same!

    So, here’s to home! Where the heart is, yes. Right here.

    • Your words sure ring true, Jeannie. And yes, it’s hard to see our whole state take the beating it’s taken during this recession. I hope we rally and see better days ahead 🙂

      Having your family spread out over the countryside is difficult. I think we’re far apart, but then I think about my daughter in law, whose family is half a world away, not just half a country away!

  3. Becca –

    I am always intrigued by how our surroundings are so much part of who we are. It is almost as if we carry that exterior inside. Also this exterior speaks to us. I walk past the same trees every day, have done for years. To leave them behind would feel like leaving good friends. Yet I know I must not attach myself to these trees, to this house, to these wall. For what would happen if I could no longer live here, where I have lived for the past 25 years? To be attached has this double edged quality – the security of the familiar – and then this defenselessness towards change…..


    • Grete, I’ve watched several of my elderly neighbors have to leave their homes here and it’s painful for them. It’s hard – no impossible – for me to not attach myself to a place. I know the leaving here will be so hard when the time comes.

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