Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Home is Where the Heart Is

Can we talk a word about home. What exactly is it? Its a debate I keep having with my husband and we both hit the ball back and forth over the net trying to sort out what this means.

To most, its where you grew up. The place you remember as a child, small and simple and where you discovered or began to discover who you were. You made old school friends, received an education and explored the mini world around you. You spent time with family, pushed the envelope time and time again and the place you left behind when you went off to achieve higher education, take a job or find yourself, whatever that means.

To some, home is where you physically live. As in, the place you sleep at night and the community to which you and your family belong. My husband always says, "Home is where you are, where we raise our kids." Its a lovely sentiment but to me the word home needs to mean so much more. Yeah sure, wherever we are as a atomic family planted in this world is technically home. But to me, home is an emotional experience and a mental state where I can finally set down my baggage, unpack my junk and settle in to a place that "feels" like home. Its not just finding the right jobs or the right Jewish community, its about feeling a click inside me that says, "Yep, here it is, you're home."

I am a northerner and I do go out of my way to show my allegiance to Boston. Its the place I grew up, discovered my inner voice and met the man of my dreams. Will it be the home I choose to return to or simply a place in my mind as a reminder of the "me along the way" in my path of life? The jury is still out on that. But, I do think people can have many homes. I'm a Jew and there is no denying that. The feeling of alive I felt while living in Jerusalem for two years is simply in-explainable. Its an inner jolt one cannot put in words. A part of me years to return there while the rest of me feels pulled towards family I know will never relocate and a professional life I know I could never recreate in a million years there.

Sure I have memories of my home life as a kid. I remember my nana, who moved in to help my dad raise us as kids, telling me what it will be like when I have kids of my own. Spending time at the playground and swing set of the elementary school behind my house on summer afternoons dreaming of the return to school next fall and the fun that came with it. I remember playing in the creek across the street from my house, catching salamanders with my brother and skipping rocks. Summers at the Cape, staying at a rundown motel with a swimming pool and spending afternoons at a beach filled with seashells. No it wasnt a fancy life, but it was home. It was cooking in the kitchen, smelling chicken soup boiling on the stove or sitting next to my dad at Shabbat services, watching him cover his eyes and sway with the tune. Home was a place with a fluorescent green door that only faded more over time and a backyard filled with forested land and a barely-there vegetable garden and a rotted porch that we sunbathed on as kids. It was a place I felt safe and one where I daydreamed about my life before me. But that home is a place I left a long time ago. In fact, its a place we no longer own or return to. Does that mean I no longer have a home? Can I never go back there again? Or is it something that comes with me wherever I go?

This concept of home is playing a bigger role in my consciousness these days as we are currently looking for a new place to rent for the remainder of Steve's residency. This will be our third move in four years. Just a bit crazy if you ask me. But not exactly by choice. The first move was to the DC area for residency to start. The second move happened when we learned we were expecting baby 2 and the need for more space fast was evident. I also started working from home and the little livable and workable space we did have was less than modest. Our hopefully third and final move of residency is due to the rising cost of our complex that blows my mind.

A lot of our discussion has turned towards the question of where do we go next. Not in next for the rest of our lives when Steve starts applying for jobs in two years, but next as in next month, August. We've been looking like mad in our current neighborhood with choices few and far between and a place we simply could never afford to buy in once we are done with the schooling. We've also explored joining a neighboring community with a lot of rental options and the possibility of buying something comfortable when all is said and done should we choose to stay. I think for us, its just a hard sell leaving a place we've grown in to and up in for four years. So many friends we have made along the way and two children we have raised from birth in front of our eyes.

Which path do we choose has a lot to say with how we define home. Is it truly where we reside, in our own internal place of residence? Is it our neighborhood and Jewish community who supports and cherishes us through every life cycle event (death of Steve's dad, birth of our two kids, etc.) or is it a place in our past we can never recreate but can only hope to come close to for our children? A lot of our scoping of neighborhoods, backyards and synagogue options has begun to focus less and less on me and Steve and more and more on our kids. Where can they have a bigger outdoor space to run around far from traffic and close to home? Where can we make services with varying schedules and find lots of school friends for our kids to spend Shabbat afternoons with. I'm tired of leaking ceilings and noisy lobbies. I'm tired of staring out at parking lots and hearing laundry carts roll up and down the hallway. I'm tired of rent increases of 10% or parking policies that take advantage of young families or seniors in our community.

Its clear its time to move and to relocate somewhere a la carte for another two years. Here's to hoping our new home offers some quiet and relaxation with friendly faces of new and old. Some day, I hope to unpack all those boxes jammed way up in the small closet we call a storage space and find a home for our things we find so dear. Will that truly be our home or will it be just another place we hang our hat? I think that home is what you make of it and inside, I hope it just becomes a place, like the feeling I had inside when I met Steve on December 2, 2000, that just feels right. The place I/we were meant to be and the place we can truly come into our own. Something I guess we will only know when we get there. Maybe its something that has been with us all the while, or maybe its a place in our minds. Either way, one things for sure, a move is in our near future and where we will end up, nobody knows.

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