Growing up, home was simply about where my family lived at the time. By the time I was done with public school we had lived in 11 homes, in 9 cities, in 7 states, and I’d attended 8 different schools. No “place” was home.
My mother was raised Southern Baptist in rural Alabama, my father was Jewish from Brooklyn. There was no faith, no specific heritage that I found refuge in either. I was baptized in the Lutheran church, when I was about five years old, but I never felt fully part of it. My dad would come to church on Sundays, but he just came along to keep mom company. He did not participate. This felt odd, and there was always a part of me that felt divided.
I was the baby of the family; 17 years separate me from my eldest sibling. I never had a cousin my age. So even at family gatherings I was on the edge of things, always trying to be part of what my elder siblings and cousins were up to, trying to tag along.
Perhaps that is the most clear way to describe how the lack of home impacted me: I’ve rarely felt like I fit in. I lived in a small town in Illinois in high school, small enough for most of us to know each other. Yet, I was always the new kid because I did not have the history with the others. I lived in an urban sprawl area on the Jersey shore, and there I felt like I disappeared in the crowd.
But as an adult I’ve found the feeling has shifted. I’ve now lived in Albuquerque longer than anywhere else, and my last house was my longest residence by a factor of two. But it’s not just the amount of time that has caused a shift. I finally feel close to a landscape. The mountains and the desert move me in ways the eastern flatlands never could. The climate, the dry air, was a balm for my heavy soul when I moved here; 33 years in the humidity weighs one down.
However, as much as I love the place that is New Mexico, I think I was simply ready for it. After the moving I had done, after the searching for my own life, I arrived here ready to embrace it. I knew that immediately. The drive from Florida to Albuquerque was only spread out over three days, but it may as well have been the journey of a lifetime. I was home, and I knew that I would be staying here for some time.
I may not stay in New Mexico for the rest of my life, but I have found home. Besides this town, this geographic place, I know that home is really in one’s heart. I felt like an outsider for much of my youth, but I feel grounded now. Even when I move away, even when I’m new to another town, I’ll be able to feel at home.
I have known people who grew up in one town, but hated it and couldn’t wait to move away. I’ve known people who have disowned their family of origin. Duration, being “from somewhere,” does not necessarily make home. What we choose in our heart, where we are drawn to, that defines home.