Home: Six Months Later

TexasAre you happy here? she asks.

We are sitting on the best porch in town, maybe in the world, in tan plastic chairs instead of the more comfortable porch swing behind us or the white rocking chairs to our left. But to sit in those places would be to divorce ourselves from the party inside, currently dancing with great passion to today’s worst pop hits.

To buy more time, I tease, Here? On this porch?

She smiles and says yes and no.

I think in silence, inhaling and exhaling the brisk February Texas air like the boys who come outside, interrupting our conversation with their exhaled puffs of smoke.

Before Christmas break, I was asked: When are you going home?

At church in Calgary on Christmas Eve, I was told by old women pressing my hand, I’m sure your mom is so glad to have all of you home.

After the New Year, in Oregon, everyone asked if it felt good to be home, among the pine trees and green grayness.

And then my friends in Texas asked, When are you coming home?

Home.

I’ve been doing this for years, leaving pieces of my heart in places. It started when I was born, in the Wisconsin hospital. I left a piece of me in the sandbox in Hutchinson, Minnesota, and in a bed at the Minneapolis Children’s Hospital. There are pieces of me in a backyard in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and a dirt road edged with soybeans and corn, soybeans and corn, soybeans and corn, near Harrisburg, South Dakota. And in a windowseat in Vancouver, Washington, and the high school auditorium three miles away.

There are pieces of me in the hearts of those in Calgary, in Seattle, in Edmonton, so that where they are is home.

And there are big chunks of me all over Newberg: in bookstores and coffeeshops, along bike routes and in grocery stores, in dorm rooms and apartments and homes, in a old brick church with a wooden balcony, on the grass only a block from the highway that’s the only way in and out of town.  Pieces of me on the bridges of Portland and the MAX train, in the vendors at the Saturday Market and in the quiet sanctuary of Powell’s Books.

I’m not alone in this. I know friends who have been exiled from the homes they spent their childhood in, because they were sent “home” to the strange country written on their passport. And they felt lost. And others have moved to different bases, apartments, cities, towns, streets, countries, and they feel lucky and excited, and fragmented and chopped up. And so many others who measure their family’s growth by the different addresses and weather patterns and hopes and dreams of each home.

Home is not where you put your stuff.
Home is not where you hang your hat.
Home is not where you grew up.
It’s all those, and all the others.

Home is where the heart is: where you leave those heart-pieces when you say good-bye. Sometimes it’s hard to be happy about that.

But am I happy here?
Yes. I am also sad, and sometimes angry, and often frustrated, and anxious and giddy and hopeful and despairing.

Am I at home here?
Yes, because this morning I felt drawn to Dichotomy because I needed tea and to write words. And I know the best routes to good Thai food, Target, and the zoo. I know where the sidewalk suddenly disappears on my bike ride to work.

And because I am sitting on a porch surrounded by sweetly tipsy people who are dancing poorly to pop music, while another strums soulfully on a guitar; the musical confusion is fine and fitting and right. And we are on the best porch in town, there is a porch swing, and the sky is clear with hints of stars, and we’re sitting outside in the middle of winter.

But more than that, those people are learning to love me, and they want to do that, even though we are only here to learn. But they realize that home is where our hearts are, whatever is left of them, and so it’s worth it. It’s always worth it.

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