Home, the sanctuary of the heart and physical location of our comfort zone, where stress just melts away, and we can bare all, both literally and figuratively. Over the past 18 years, I have lived in 10 cities located in 4 different states; from the snowy back roads of Western New York, to the city streets of Philadelphia, the frozen lakes of Minnesota, and the sandy beaches of California. Each location, vastly different from the next, yet they share one similarity; I’ve called them all home.
I grew up in a small town on the east coast. Jamestown, New York is like none other, standing out in my heart among the rest. With the city’s roots in the arts and theater, I benefited greatly, being pushed out on stage at a very young age. Our home was located on the outskirts of town, and for 17 years, I shared that home with my sister and 2 loving parents. My childhood was nothing short of idyllic and, looking back, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my upbringing. We were, and still are, blessed beyond belief. From our annual traditions, to amazing family and friends, Jamestown will always be the ideal version of what I think of when I say “home”.
Outside of Jamestown, the longest stretch of time I’ve spent in one location is right here in my current home. And although we’ve lived here for 5 years, no matter how much I have tried, or would like to, I have yet to recreate that feeling of “home” I once had in Jamestown, New York. Maybe it’s because my immediate family lives hundreds of miles away or because that “small town” feel is difficult to find amidst the sixth-most populous county in the country. Whatever the reason, it just isn’t the same. I’ve thought about this for the past few weeks, even chatting with my sister, who agrees there is something “cozy” about Jamestown that we have yet to find here in California.
The first few weeks after Mason’s adoption, I remember how painfully unsettled he was. So scared and uncomfortable, he would scream at the site of our cat and dogs. Too young to articulate what was going on, everything and everyone was unfamiliar to him. From sites, to sounds and scents, at 12-months old, he had to completely re-acclimate himself to his new environment. I’m sure it was terrifying. The only experience I’ve had that would remotely compare was a trip to China, where I struggled to find normalcy and community. And although I tried really hard to feel comfortable, when the language barrier is so extreme, you don’t have the luxury of simply getting by as I had in other countries. Simple things, like buying a cup of coffee and getting directions were a challenge. I was in the financial district of Shanghai, and naïve to how few people spoke English. I resorted to showing the taxi driver a few Chinese characters on a map to get from place to place.
During Mason’s transition and (to a lesser extent) my experience in China, we were missing that essence of “home”; our familiar surroundings, a warm embrace of comfort, and pure confidence that our basic needs would be met. The truth is the sweet spot of “home” is found in that security. I think of Jamestown and the one big difference between that home and all others to follow. I didn’t need to lift a finger, as my every need was met. From my laundry to my mother’s love-note napkin packed lunches (yes, I was that kid), to every necessity and luxury, my parents carved out a space of lavish security that I never fully appreciated until I left home.
Now, as Derek and I work to create that same space for our children, I finally understand the secret burden my parents faced with bills/expenses, the balance between work and home, and the uneasiness of trying to get everything done. We are all just trying to raise happy and healthy kids, and sometimes it feels like a sprint to the finish line just to get through the week.
It has been 18-years since I left Jamestown and, since then, I have lived hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from my sister and parents. But in less than a week, my sister and her family will be relocating to Irvine, only 15 minutes away. You can imagine my joy and anticipation, knowing that any occasion, including breakfast, lunch and dinner will be reason enough to get together on a moment’s notice. I will never again have to miss a birthday party, dance recital or special event.
That blissful ignorance of childhood has a special, and powerful, place in my mind. And while there is nothing wrong with feeling great about your past, unfortunately, I have created an unhealthy attachment to it, where I perceive those memories to be “better than” my present moment, no matter where I roam. It has been almost 20-years since those days in Western New York, only to return a handful of times, the most recent being over five years ago. I realize that when I finally go home again, so much will have changed. I’m sure it will feel very different to me, and I’ll probably get lost driving from one end of town to the next. No, the city isn’t the same, as old homes have now been sold, and so many close friends and family have since died or moved away. No, I am not the same, as my definition of comfort and security is different than it was back then. So where do I find this “home” that I love?
Jamestown represents my ideal, a version that is nowhere to be found, but living on if only in my mind. That version of “home” is like pieces of fabric, woven together by single moments, and when I look back, it resembles a quilt. Even still, I continue to compare it to my present. 18 years later, I have finally realized that my fear of loss and this very attachment I have to recreating my past makes it impossible for me to live fully in the present. Trying to re-create that version of home is the problem and it’s just giving me a reason to be discontent with my life, rather than cultivating gratitude for what I have. During childhood, I didn’t have another basis of comparison; I lived spontaneously, and in the moment. I didn’t fear anything, and maybe that carefree, limitless state of mind is what is now tugging on my heart.
“Home” then, and now, is actively created in my mind through the actions of my parents and family, similar to the ones I now create for my children. On a daily basis, my actions of parenting, participating in the community and sharing that community with my sister and her family, is creating my new version of home. Even if I never again experience that same feeling from childhood, I am part of the living, breathing “home” which offers a new warm embrace.
Everything I have needed to find “home“, all this time, was right here at my fingertips. Simply finding the courage to embrace it in the present moment, and having enough faith in my future to allow that fearlessness the space to spill over and grow bigger than my fear of losing the past. My wildest dreams and fantasies of the future are possible, if only I can embrace it and abandon my need to control the outcome. Breathe in the security of the future to feel its warm embrace, surrender all thoughts and expectations, and finally just let go. Maybe then it is possible to recreate “home” right here in California, where she’ll finally have a fighting chance to compete in my heart; the only place I can ever really find.