Like me, my friend Naomi has recently moved to a new home. Her new home is in Singapore. Our friend Pauline and her family moved from Cleveland to Chicago, and our other friend Amelia recently bought a new-to-her-home in Cleveland. Naomi had the brilliant idea that we should all write a little something today about this shared experience of making a new home.
Naomi once sent me beautiful earrings from India, so I make it a rule to always say yes to her.
What makes a place a home?
I’ve thought and written about this before. When I moved away from my hometown in Iowa to a suburb in Central Florida, I was determined to replace an old home with a new one; I assumed furniture and a change of address would do that. When that small Iowa town was wiped out by a tornado, I realized that home has very little to do with where you sleep at night.
Florida did, however, eventually become our home. That was clear to me when we said goodbye to it last year so that we could move into a travel trailer hitched up to our SUV.
While living without an address made me feel homeless in a sense, it also taught me about how people create a sense of home.
When we moved in with my in-laws this spring, I learned that home means being able to sit on your couch in your underwear on a Sunday just because.
So I moved to Pittsburgh with the people who mean the most to me, rented a duplex, and bought a couch. I have admittedly spent very little time on my couch or in my underwear here, but it still seems like I should have all of the ingredients to make a home. As Jared so aptly put it a couple weeks ago, “Besides you guys, I don’t really feel like I have a home.”
Ironically, it’s been an abundance of ties rather than a lack that has left us feeling so adrift.
Parkersburg is home because that’s where we came from, but Florida is where we figured out who we are. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is the city we chose as our own after exploring an entire country. It’s here in Pennsylvania – and man does that feel strange to type – that we’re hoping to feel most at home now. Or at least, eventually, because I know these things take time.
But how do we do that?
We’ve filled the house with furniture, but we’re always aware on some level of the temporary nature of this place and these things. That’s a lesson you can’t unlearn.
Instead of just staging a rental, I’m trying to add personal touches, things I make that can move with us and perhaps carry a sense of home with them.
I’m trying, too, to weave myself into the fabric of this community. I’m volunteering, exploring the neighborhoods, and trying to get out and meet people as often as possible. I suspect these things are more relevant to home than any handmade wall art or throw pillow.
I can’t stop thinking about the people who are my home and about what happens when half of us grow up and move away for school or work or wanderlust. Maybe this is why I’m more concerned with making somewhere home; it will soon be my responsibility to provide a place to go back to for my own children. Part of me is terrified that it will no longer be suitable to roam once my children have left the nest.
I’m not ready to say that this is the place where I will live forever and ever. I’m not ready to give up on my dream of living abroad or renting a New York City apartment. And how can somewhere feel like home when you didn’t start out there and you don’t plan on ending up there?
I’m tired of feeling transient, but I’m not ready to give up wandering. I want to feel like I belong somewhere, but not feel stuck anywhere.
I want to be home. I do.
I’m pretty sure.
Sorry, Naomi. Turns out my feelings on “making a home” are a lot more complicated than I realized.