While I’m in Florida this week, I’m posting some old pieces from the archives that seem relevant even today, lo these many years later. This was written during my first month of blogging, back in 2006, and is something that’s still on my mind.
What an ironic topic for my first foray into Sunday Scribblings, because it’s a question I’ve been asking myself quite frequently for the past five years, as in “Why in God’s name do I live where I live?” The answers for me, as I suspect for most of us, are varied and complex.
I started out asking this question seven years ago when my son moved to Florida. I was born and raised in the midwest, specifically, southeastern Michigan, so my realm of living experience is confined to a geographic radius of about 25 miles and the extremes of weather we experience here – everything from chillingly damp autumns, to bitterly cold winters which seem to seguae into warm, humid summers. The deep snows of that first winter my son was gone just intensifed the emptiness of my nest, and I clomped through the icy drifts muttering angrily to myself, “Why in the world am I living here?”
I continued to ask myself that question with increasing frequency, particularly after we purchased our own “second home” in southern Florida, just a short drive away from my son and his wife. But I’ve noticed that every time we visit there for a few days, I find myself both dreading and wishing to return home. Dreading it, because my house here is old and grungy, while my house there is new, posh, and clean. My neighborhood here pretty much matches my house, and suffice it to say, my life here just trails right along in those same decrepit lines.
But in spite of all that, my life here still seems to call out “home” to me. This old house and neighborhood have sheltered me from my first days as a young wife and mother, through raising my child and watching him fly far away into his own life. My friends are all here, the things I do that enrich my life are here – in other words, everything that is real resides in this weatherbeaten, slightly run down place. In Florida, life is almost too good to be true. As beautiful as that is for a while, it leaves something to be desired, somthing gritty and unpolished, something that you can work to clean up and rejuvenate. Something that makes life worth a little more in the end.
As much as I talk about my dream of “starting over” in the sunny south, I’m not sure I really want to jettison everything I’ve built in this place I’ve called home for the past 30 years. I live here not because it’s paradise, but because it contains so much that I hold dear and couldn’t bear to live without. Here is the little dent on the wall where I threw one of the ironstone dishes from our wedding china in a fit of anger at my new husband as he walked out the door, and here is the gorgeous red maple tree we planted on our first anniversary and daringly made love underneath on our 25th. There are the little scratch marks on the pantry made by our first cocker spaniel puppy when she was trying to get at her dog food, and the rhododendron bush outside her favorite window where I buried her ashes fifteen years later. Here’s where I find the remnants of those stickers my son plastered on all the closet doors, as well as the cherry tree he used to climb into and read poetry. These are more than memories, these are artifacts of my life. They remind me of all the things I have experienced and survived.
I live where I live because it’s home.