I’ve written fairly extensively on this idea of “home”. Between my reflection on voluntary and involuntary spaces in Laura Ingalls Wilder books, my take on houselessness during the covid19 pandemic in a response to an article published by N+1 “No Shelter”, in my own novel’s premise is an examination of the feeling of belonging, and my recent nosedive into delimitation in Lighthouses and islands, I thought I had consulted this topic enough. But it wasn’t until I was driving on route 102 like I do every single day here on Mount Desert Island that I realized my own personal relationship with home has changed too.
When I was little I used to have nightmares that we were going to move. Most of the time in the dreams we didn’t even move far, but just the thought of leaving our home scared me beyond measure. I didn’t understand how anyone would want to leave their warn wooden banisters, musty basements, stained carpets with just the right food indentations, doorbell that rings a little too loud. I never wanted to live in a mansion because that would mean I’d have to leave my home and that would be too big of an ask. And it was a real fear when I moved to college, homesickness, that feeling you get in a sterile hotel room with rough sheets that make you dream of the robustness of used and old blankets back home. Would that same alienation follow me as I moved out of the place I lived in my whole life?
The short answer is no. I never really got homesick at college. Mind you I had a great experience and was kept busy with schoolwork, friends, and basketball, but that nostalgia for a smell and a touch never followed me like I expected it would. Soon, when I was trapped back in New Jersey during the covid19 pandemic I would actually have that longing for my dorm room: that was the first step in realizing that perhaps home isn’t merely four walls and family photos on the wall.
In my past engagements of writing and literature that forced me to question the ideas of home, houselessness, imperialization, delimitation, and the taking up of space, I’ve inevitably approached the topics with evidence-based analysis. But if I separate myself from the confines of a good book or the literature about islands, if I really question my own thought-process separate from academia or accounts from other people- what is my own relationship with home like? Why as I was driving on route 102, past the saltwater inlet and at the light turning right onto Sound Drive did I feel this unsteady wave? Not a wave of homesickness, not a wave of knowing homelessness, and not a wave of feeling like I was entirely home on that right-hand turn, but, somewhere right in the middle.
In my biomythography, I wrote
“My Home is Flannel sheets and Olive oil rings on the counter and Solid wooden doors with cracked paint and Blue tile bathroom with grout that really needs a clean and That house smell that your friends tell you your house has Toilet paper without the cardboard roll- save the trees!!!!!!! Furniture we got from when my uncle sold his second house Food that tastes like how my mom hugs, how my dad talks Coins that someone left on the table, waiting to go upstairs A piano with three trombones and two and a half clarinets Hillside is my home in the summer and it is safe and familiar A refuge for crickets and mice and dragonflies and ants and Warm, metallic water to wash my hands and feet and face”linked here
But now I wonder if home is even more. I am not going to deny how bringing my physical objects into my new spaces helps me feel comforted and homely. But I’ve also found a disponibility in the old constructs I considered vital to my idea of home. I find home while driving on 102, the windows hand-cranked down just a bit to let the breeze whisper over my sunkissed face; I find home in that feeling because all of the aspects I ritualized in my home have become present in my own self. Through maturity, or life lessons, or hardships, or heartbreak- through happiness and discovery the hardy-wood light blue walls of the house I’ve lived in my whole life has become synonymous with my own skin.
When I am driving on 102 after a long but productive day at the work I love, after a two and a half-mile run and an ocean dip, towards a place where I will be with people that make me smile endlessly- when I am driving, then, I am happy. A happy me is a home for me.
Maybe that’s what it means to grow old; to find a home within yourself. After all, it is impossible to miss something when it is always with you- or is it? Perhaps and maybe even more importantly, what triggers that connection to home within myself should be idealized more: happiness. When I am happy I am home and that is one of the biggest life lessons I have ever learned.