"Where are you from?" Other than, "What's your name." this is probably the most common question people ask when they first meet someone. And it's a question I have always dreaded. Because I think waaay too much, I always go into a tailspin when I know this question is coming. Do I tell them where I was born? Where I lived the longest? Where I graduated high school? The last place I lived? Where my parents live? Or any of the others in between? "It's complicated," I usually reply with a smile. "Right now, I'm from here." Growing up with a pastor for a father, there wasn't much time to put down roots. In my life, I have lived in 7 different towns (plus a couple random summers elsewhere) in four different states. I attended four schools K-12. It was always strange to me that people had lived in one place for their entire lives. That they had known the people they went to school with since preschool. That they had family living in their town.
I was talking with my dad the other day, and he brought up a good point. When we moved from the midwest to New York, it was a turning point for our family. It really forced us to rely on each other, to become our own little solid unit, because we were a good 24 hours from the familiarity of Minnesota. Even though I was young, I think this was the time that I really solidified my idea of "home" as being wherever my family was, rather than a childhood house. When my friends say they are going "home," they typically mean to the house in which they spent most of their early lives. When a lot of people picture "home," they see a house, an old bedroom, the creaky swing on the porch. I see the faces of my family, and now my friends.
I was thinking about this as I drove home from visiting my dear friend Kristen in the cities this weekend. Yes, I was driving home...home to my apartment, where I sleep most nights, where I keep my things...but I was also leaving home, because Kristen is home to me. I am as comfortable at her house as my own, even as where she has lived has changed, because she hasn't changed. My sister's house is home. I am there frequently, and know my way around her kitchen almost as well as my own (sometimes better). My parent's house is home. They have moved out of the town where I graduated high school, but they are home to me, no matter where they live. My brother's house is home. I have homes in Denver and Kansas City, in Indianpolis and Minneapolis. And many other places. As long as I'm with those I love, I am home.
I used to think I couldn't leave this place, that I had to live near my family forever. And maybe I will. I don't know. But if I don't, I know I will always be connected with them in ways that distance cannot touch. And they will always be my home.
(It's okay to cry. Phyllis.)