I was writing an email to my sister-in-law this morning, and I suddenly realized that I used the word home in reference to three different places: Minnesota, Texas, and Japan. I had to go back and edit my typing in order to not completely confuse her.
I’m pretty sure I said something to the effect of: I can’t wait until we get home (to Minnesota) to visit!!! (I use a lot of exclamation points.) Then I am sure I rambled on about something else that you all don’t care about before telling her that we are planning to make a stop at home (Texas) for some barbecue before heading home (to Japan).
I told her that I am really looking forward to going home…and then stopping at home…before heading home.
The hard part is that each use of the word home felt 100% appropriate. It wasn’t until I did a quick skim to proofread my email before sending that I realized that I made absolutely no sense.
Side note for context: we are spending two weeks in the US in December/January. Yes, we are planning an overnight layover in Texas in order to get our barbecue fix before heading back to Japan. We’ll see some friends in Texas, too, so we’re not completely food-obsessed. Scratch that, we totally are. But so are the people we are going to see, so it’s all good. These are people who don’t bat an eye when you invite yourselves to stay at their house for one night so that you can eat amazing food together before jetting off. And this is why we call them our friends.
But the thing is that all of those places really are home to me.
Where is home? Where are you from?
Anyone who has called more than one city home can relate to this, but when you jump from state to state or even country to country the answer to that innocent question tends to get more and more complicated.
So when people ask us where we’re from, the answer looks a little different each time.
From my point of view, it tends to go something like this:
“I’m from the United States.”
“Oh, where specifically? Well, we moved (to Japan) from Texas. But we’re actually not from Texas, we’re from Minnesota.”
“No, not, “like, Minneapolis”…from a tiny town about 300 miles north of there.”
“Nope, not Canada, but almost!”
“No, Fargo isn’t in Minnesota. That would be North Dakota. I lived there, too. Yeah, I guess some people talk like that. Hmmm…I’m not sure why I don’t sound like that, too. I guess my accent has faded a little. It comes back when I’ve spent a bit of time back there, though…”
Basically I tell my geographical history backwards until the person seems satisfied.
The most important gifts you can give to your child are roots and wings.
Have you heard that saying? I am not sure who originally said it, but I get it. I think we’re all doing okay on the wings front over here, but what happens if you raise a kid who can’t look back to see her roots in exactly one place? What if her roots are in lots of places? We’ve had 7 homes – in 4 states, 5 cities, and 2 countries – since Miss E was born. She has become an expert on saying goodbyes and on making new friends, and I am certain that it has made her a stronger and more adaptable person. But at the same time I don’t doubt that it’s given her a lot to discuss with her future therapist.
Sometimes I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt because we haven’t given her a life where she could give a one-word answer to the question of where she is from. When someone asks her where she is from (pretty often now that we have moved overseas), I can see the wheels turning in her head when she tries to make out the best way to answer. I can see the tiny flicker of panic that comes from not knowing if you can get away with telling this particular person which country you come from and leave it at that, or if they want your entire life story. Since she is more like her father than her mother when it comes to talking to other people, I know that she is always hoping for the former rather than the latter.
So even though I feel guilty for not giving her a simple life where a one-word answer would suffice, I am pretty sure I would feel guilty if we had stayed in the same place for the past 13+ years and hadn’t taken the risks that we have in order to give her the life that she has. Parent guilt is real, and I have found that it’s pretty much going to be there no matter what I do. So here’s hoping that the places she’s been, the people she’s loved, the experiences she has had, and the memories she has made will make up for the feeling of being from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Hopefully she will come to discover, as I have, that home is a lot of different things rolled into one.
Home is a location. It can be a town/city/state/region/country/continent/hemisphere. It can even be a different place each time you picture it, or it can be the one place you picture over and over again, no matter where you actually live.
Home is the feeling. It is the comfort you feel when you return from a long day, or from a trip. It’s where you want to pull the covers over your head when you’ve had a rough day. It’s where you walk around without any pants on, and where you give yourself permission to drink juice out of the carton because you’re too lazy to grab a glass.
Home is the people we surround ourselves with in each of those locations. It is those people whom we have the privilege to miss when we leave. Home can be family, friends, and those friends who become your family; and it is the people who we become in each place that we make a home.
It is our little family, wherever we’re together.