I’ve never had a place I’ve called home. I’ve lived in houses with immediate family for a number of years that would constitute as a home, but the title never felt right. Perhaps it was because I didn’t feel secure. My room wasn’t my room, it wasn’t recognized wholly as such until I moved in with my grandparents. While I lived with my parents, they would walk in without knocking, knock but walk in without permission, open the door while I’m changing just to flick the lights off in order to force me to bed at 9 p.m., and barge in to continue an argument after it had seemingly ended and I went to my room to hide. Everything I had there was a privilege. Even going out for walks around the neighborhood—along the same path and the same speed, so much so that one could time each loop—was only allowed despite my age. In most of my homes, I had escapes, and most of the time that was my room. Only when I lived with my grandparents did I stop trying to escape.
Still, even there I didn’t feel like it was home. My grandparents showed me respect by knocking on the door and waiting for permission. They even asked permission just to go in to gather laundry. The arguments were very rare and I felt welcome and appreciated. But it didn’t feel like home, though it came the closest.
When I went to Ireland in the fall of 2006, I felt a connection with the land that there was only whispers of in the states. My portals fear (open or ajar doors, windows without the blinds or curtains drawn, and mirrors) disappeared entirely and my tension eased. But my friends and family weren’t there, nor was my cat or even a job. If everything in the states had been transferred to Ireland, it would’ve been home.
I don’t think I’ll find home until I choose it for myself. For me, it might be something I establish myself instead of being plopping into. It’s a place where I can feel secure, like at my grandparents’ house, where things are wholly mine, where I can feel responsible and at ease, where I can make memories and not worry about one day losing the objects or places that are tied to them. It’s probably also a place that has a strong connection to nature.
Each place I’ve lived at was by nature. The house on Briarwood Lane when I was 7-11 years old had a large back yard that connected to surrounding back yards, proving an undulating field of climbing trees and swing sets. The next house on Joan Street was in a neighborhood with hilly streets and two parks. I lived there when I was 11-17 years old, walked an average of three miles a day (between 3-13 times around), and used my walking as an escape. Sometimes I would deviate from my route to explore the trails of a nearby forest patch, or walk down a slope next to a stream to enjoy the sounds and open grassy lawns. My grandparents’ house on Route 528 came next when I was 17-23 years old. They rented large white house on a potato farm with rolling fields of hay (I think) and potatoes, tree lines at the edge of the property, a shed around the tree bend where the landlord would hold parties, and a small pond with two large trees by the barn. There I would rollerblade along the Y-shaped driveway, stopping frequently to stare at the sunset, at the pond, at the fields and tree lines. I would watch the skies shift and learn to gauge the rain not by how quickly the clouds rolled in, but by their heaviness. A rainbow landed in the fields at least twice in the six years I lived there.
Now that I’m on my own, I live in a room that has been established as mine, in a house that holds five other people and four other pets. It’s not home yet and it probably never will be for two reasons: I don’t feel secure at all, and it’s so packed into the suburbs that I could hang from my roof and touch the neighbor’s house (we can see into their kitchens or living rooms to either side if we’re in our own kitchen or living room). There’s little to no nature here aside from our own back yards. There is a park where my housemates go to jog, but it’s a few miles down the road and rather dangerous during the winter. Just a few weeks ago, one of my housemates was mugged at the gas station across from that park.
Our readings have talked about people returning “home” and matching a tree or seeds to their late parents. They’ve asked whether the nature of nature writing is tied directly with travel writing in order to understand a place. They’ve told about growing up for generations on the same track of land and feeling an intrinsic connection to even the underground water systems. I envy the author who was able to return to a plot of land despite not living there anymore. He spoke of it as if he was coming home, and I wonder how he feels about the place he lives now. He makes me wonder whether home is something that’s built, or something that builds us? What does it mean that I haven’t found home yet? I still haven’t figured that out.