We get around more than most people, I know. Last summer was pretty intense with travel. This summer even more so. My travels started in June and will continue until the end of September thus: Manila – Washington DC – New York – Washington DC – Greece – Kathmandu – London – Kathmandu….with enough side trips at the various locations to keep us permanently living out of suitcases for a long while yet. When we got to Greece a couple of weeks ago, I posted “Home, finally!” on Facebook and someone asked me to explain what that meant. It made me wonder about the definition of the word, and what feels most like home to me. I certainly would have defined home as Manila at different points in the last two years, but our Greek home is Home in so many ways. For others, working overseas for a while and planning to return to the place where you grew up is pretty straightforward classification: permanent home and temporary home. We however have been moving around for so many years that I have lots of definitions. There’s:
Original Home: London. Where I grew up and where I visit almost every year. That’s where my family is and so many familiar things. Many unimportant, trivial, yet comfortingly familiar things like chocolate bars, tv shows, bus stops or familiar streets. Going to London is like a grounding in who I am and where I came from. But as the years go by there are very little concrete remains of the old memories, and very little real “home” except for the care that my family gives me. Out on London streets there are very few doors left that I can knock on any more, but I still consider myself a Londoner.
Adopted Home: New Jersey. There’s the NJ town where I lived for lots of years (one of my favourite places) and American friends and family and the cultural connection I have built over the last 25 years of being married to an American. Its less about the place and more about the culture. I don’t miss NJ. I do miss the town where I lived. Now I am an American but I’ ll don’t think I’ll ever consider myself a New Jerseyite.
Assigned Home: Wherever we are posted. It was Manila, its about to be Kathmandu. I’m sure I will learn to love (and dislike) many thing about Nepal and, like the Philippines, it will become part of my world “home” places as all the crazy new stuff becomes normal and navigable. But in an assigned home for a predetermined period of time works very well to deter you from the kind of attachment formed in other places. Its really just the people that stick with you.
Permanent Home: Greece. Home of our house, our things, and friends we see every year. The place where we raised our son for his preschool years, a place of consistency…sort of. Every year is different and this year more so than most. But there’s something about returning to a place where your clothes are already in the closet and your favourite sheets are on the bed that makes it a Home with a capital H. I’m sure we are classified by many locals as one of the temporary summer families that are around for a short while and then are gone through the majority of the island’s year. But, unlike other Summer families, we ain’t got no other home to go to! (You’d have to be a Londoner at chucking out time to get that one.)