I am at an age where I can claim to have two homes. Not two homes like wealthy people of my parents’ generation can claim, but rather two places I refer to as my home.
There is the one in Chicago, where I pay a ton in rent to stay, and there is the one in Michigan where my parents live - the home of my childhood, the only one from my childhood. We never moved growing up, so it is natural to still refer to my parents’ place as home. Granted, there have been significant improvements (e.g. new carpeting, new kitchen, new furniture) since my sister and I moved out, but it is still home none-the-less.
I spent Labor Day weekend in Michigan getting reacquainted with my home away from home and those whom still live near it. And it was positively wonderful. I soaked in the atmosphere of home late Friday night (thanks to delays from Megabus) by sleeping in my old bedroom. I sat in my parents’ kitchen for hours on Saturday reminiscing with friends and getting updated about family happenings thanks to a small gathering my mother threw. On Sunday morning I spent my time in the company of my best friends’ family, whose house growing up I considered my second home. (It is the only place I can claim to have had an entire table dedicated to pictures of me.) On Sunday afternoon I ventured away from home to visit friends I haven’t seen in quite some time, whom fittingly are settling into their first homes and beginning families of their own.
Home is a strange concept at my age. Yes, I have an apartment where I spend the majority of my nonworking hours, but it does not have the same feeling as my parents’ house. When I did return to Chicago late Monday night, walking through my front door seemed a little empty. It doesn’t even compare to the feeling I get when walking into my parents’ house. There is familiarity and comfort there which I know will never be recreated if my parents finally move to that house on the lake they’ve talked about for years.
I remember being in Spain - farther from home than I had ever been. It was about a week into my trip. My Spanish skills were barely helping me squeak by, and I definitely felt like a stranger in a strange (but beautiful) land. One night I met up with a rag tag group of international students that had assembled by way of the loose acquaintances we had formed since our arrival. Our group of Americans, Swedes, Germans, Scots and Hollanders pulled together some tables outside a bar on a little cobblestone street. We sat under the glow of streetlights and shared the tales of our lives. I distinctly remember that night feeling like Spain actually could become my home for the next few months.
It certainly did. And this is not to say after two years in Chicago I still am searching for home in that sense. The friendships I have formed leave my days and nights full. But it is a different kind of full then I feel upon going to my parents’ home. It has nothing to do with the physical structure which encapsulates me but instead the memories of the time I have spent there. You can live anywhere, but it is the time you spend at any place that truly makes it a home.
My new apartment does not hold that same potential. It is hard to create loads of the kinds of memories I cherish when living alone. I am not sad that I live alone, though. It is something some day I will not have a choice to do, so I relish it now.
I also know someday both my present homes I will no longer call home. I certainly will not stay in my current apartment forever. My parents certainly will move at some point. Thinking ahead to that day is slightly sad, but where there is the future there is possibility. And I realize, it is quite possible that by the time my childhood home is no longer in the family I will be in the process of creating a home of my own, one which will become to my children what my parents’ home is to me.
So I take away from all this the lesson that I should treasure my time at home. Making the trip home is good for me. It is something I need to do, maybe a little more than three times a year, if for no other reason than someday I won’t have that option any more.