Lately I have been thinking a lot about the concept of home. It is a strange issue for me, because I moved around a lot growing up. By the time I was 15 I had lived in 13 different houses, so for me home wasn't always about a place. Unfortunately, home became my stuff, and, though I don't live like those people on "Hoarders," I definitely have collected more stuff than I could ever need, use, or even really want. Luckily I have realized this, and have been on a major stuff purge ever since we decided to move to Vermont.
But if a house is not a home, and the things in your house are not a home, then what is a home? Maybe the people in your house are what makes it a home. That is certainly true to an extent, but it doesn't cover it fully. As the cheesy Christmas song I sang in high school chorus told me, "Home is a Special Kind of Feeling." It's funny what can and cannot give you that feeling.
For the past four days I have been driving back and forth, singing concerts in the DC and Baltimore area. I had lived in that area for 14 years before moving to Vermont a few months ago. When I drove up to a rehearsal through Silver Spring on Thursday, right past my old apartment building and all the places I used to go, it did not feel like home to me. I'd been in Baltimore for four years, and though Silver Spring was a familiar place, it did not feel like home. Which is funny, because after moving to Baltimore, whenever I would drive through that same old neighborhood, I would feel a twinge of homesickness and recognize it as "home."
I don't know when exactly it switched over, but as I drove through Baltimore to my old house, I got that same funny feeling again that I used to get from Silver Spring. Like I was home.
Even though we had moved out months ago, no one had been into our old house, as evidenced by the restaurant fliers piled up against the door and the mail lying in the entryway, just under the mail slot. My key still worked, and I walked inside our empty house, which looked just as it did when we had left it. I was filled with two overwhelming and conflicting desires. One was to run back to the car, drive away, and never look back, as it was just too sad to be there. The other impulse I had was to just lie down on the floor and stay there for the rest of the weekend, soaking in the feeling that I was finally home.
In the end, I did neither of those things. I did what I had gone there to do, which was to retrieve our butter dish that we had accidentally left in the fridge the day we moved, and to pick up a small table that we had left behind due to a lack of space in the moving truck. I walked slowly through every room of the house, the house that I had lived in longer than any other house in my life, and felt such sadness about the fact that I didn't know where my home was. Home is where the heart is, right? But my heart is in so many places, and with so many people.
I left Baltimore and went back to DC, which also had lost a lot of its "home-ness." Riding the metro, I realized that I already felt more at home on the New York subway than I did on the DC trains. But I had lived in DC and ridden the metro trains every day for ten years! I had only stayed in New York for two months! Is home a function of time? Is home just where you have been most recently? That can't be it either. South Burlington, VT feels like home to me. It's the town I did most of my growing up in, but I haven't lived there for a decade and a half. I don't think it will ever stop feeling like a place that I truly belong.
Sunday morning I went back to my old church and sang with the choir again. We sang a beautiful concert in the afternoon, and every minute there felt like home. At the same time, all I could think about that evening was my family back in Vermont, and how much I missed being home with them.
Maybe I'm just thinking about all of this because I miss my family and I'm tired of being away from them. Maybe I just miss Baltimore, and living in a state that has a Target. Maybe it just feels like life is moving too far, too fast, and it's hard to keep up. I'm not sure. But I think, in the end, that home is not something you find, but something that you make. It's partly the house, partly the town, partly the stuff, and partly the people, and it's our job to put those pieces together in the way that makes us the happiest. I'll keep working on it.