Freshman year of college made me overly conscious of the word “home.” I consciously said I was going back to my dorm, or my room. When I did say “home” by mistake, my friends looked at me, puzzled.
“I don’t mean home home,” I said. We used repetition for emphasis, as if we were gossiping about who like liked who else in eighth grade. As the year went on, I slipped into using the word more and more often. Now, in my third year of undergrad, my friends and I know when someone means “home” vs. “home home.” There’s a subtle difference that truly collegiate ears can hear. But it still strikes me sometimes that I now have three “homes.” I have to wonder if it cheapens the word.
I had been through a phase like that before, when my dad finally bought a house after the divorce. I was determined not to bestow the term “home” on his bachelor pad, angry as I still was. But after a while I admitted that Dad’s house was just as much a home base for me as Mom’s, particularly as college loomed and I was clinging with white knuckles to everything familiar in the face of having to go away to a huge campus (by my sheltered standards, anyway) where the only people I knew were the ones I never really liked in high school. “Home” was suddenly akin to “haven,” and it stayed defined that way for the first half of my college career, particularly since I found myself having to move once a semester for a year and a half for various unforeseeable reasons.
But now, as a new transition rears its head like the Cave of Wonders bursting out of the desert, I find myself thinking more about “home” as something I am about to create than something preexisting. In a way, this is sad. I love being able to return to the places where I grew up and revisit the life I used to have. However, since Bird took over my room (I had the bigger one all through high school) as soon as I went to college, I haven’t actually gone home to the room of my adolescence for almost three years now. Instead, I’m arranging the apartment the Commodore and I share, making it suit us both, and spending pretty much all my free time either here or over at one of my friends’ apartments. I’m enjoying our little nest (and I love not having to move again until at least graduation!). But even this is temporary by nature; I’m not even living here full-time, since I go home for breaks. (Not that I’ll be home for the summer – I have an internship three hours away.)
The Southern Belle and I were discussing our plans for the summer, and she brought up a good point. She told me that although she looks forward to returning to the South, it’s not because she wants to see the people and places she left behind, but rather because she is excited to see how she as an adult fits into that space. It’s about her, not her past.
I agree. “Home” is shifting from “origin point” and “haven” to “where we fit/belong in the world” – and that might not be the places we grew up anymore. I’ll always love going home to my parents, but soon my “home home” will change.
Part of me wants the glamour of city life, living in some brick apartment building with plenty of character and becoming a regular at the coffee shop down the street, walking to work or taking the subway in flats and changing into my heels in the elevator. Part of me wants the quiet of suburban or even secluded country life, where I can putter in the yard and make a house a comfortable place for me and my family to spend our days, not having to venture too far into society if I don’t feel like it, having a view of something other than concrete.
Surprisingly, only a very tiny part of me wants to run back to the “wispy peach” room at my mom’s house and the “papyrus green” one at my dad’s. It sounds more exciting to me right now to have the agency to create my own home – furnished, of course, with the beloved, familiar, castoff furniture we’ve been saving in the basement for years. And for once, I’m okay with the uncertainty.