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Home is Where the… Where?

Dorothy's Red Slippers from the Wizard of Oz
Hands forming the roof and walls of a house

“Home is home, and everything else is not-home.” – Verlyn Klinkenborg, SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE

For most of us, home and hometown are synonymous. That wasn’t the case for me, at least not until recently. I’ve spent most of my holidays away from Huntsville, away from family. Away from Home.

According to the Pew Research Center, 37% of adults in the United States of America have never left their hometowns. Most (57%) have not lived outside their current home state. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 15% have lived in four or more states.

The US Census Burea seems to back that up. 70% of Americans live in or close to the city where they grew up. About 10% never leave their hometown.

“My answer for “where are you from?” is usually Michigan, but “where’s home for you?” is a little harder.” – Julie Beck, The Atlantic

For those who stay, and those who return, it is less about the place and more about the people. Connections. Family.

That’s the same reason cited by a lot of those who leave, and stay gone. They’ve met new people. Made new connections. Extended their family.

Conventional wisdom says that “home is where the heart is.” Chances are, if you are reading this, you’re into alternatives like Fantasy and Speculative Fiction. You aren’t, we aren’t conventional. So does conventional wisdom apply?

I’ll posit this: Home is where we can be ourselves. It is the place that gives us our greatest chance of becoming the person we want to be.

Home is where They Get You.

Lithograph of woman reading book with Mount Fuji in Background

Rebecca Knight assembled a top ten list of things that make a house a home. Five of the first six resonate with me:

  1. Sleeping in your own bed
  2. Family photos
  3. Your own spot on the sofa
  4. The memories made in the home
  5. A fridge full of food
  6. A bookshelf filled with your books

I’d replace #5 with “Pictures of previous places I called Home”

Hot air baloon made of a dandelion puff art

I’ve lived in six states. Spent fifteen years abroad. It’s been my good fortune to work for employers that let me, needed me to travel. My spouses globe-trotting makes me look like a homebody.

That sort of flexibility does come at a price. There are advantages to deep roots. Homebase. Home. Just ask any military brat. Their symbol is the dandelion, and for good reason.

Marta Keen knew, when she wrote the song “Homeward Bound“, that Home is a special place. It is special people. Some of us get that without ever leaving Home.

"You can never go home again, Oatman… but I guess you can shop there." Martin Blanke, Grosse Pointe Blank

Others, like me, have to leave it, lose it, to get it. To appreciate what we had, and what we have. The good news? We can misplace home, but we can never lose it. Not for long, anyway. Unless we are Martin Blank.

One song, one ten-note piano intro, stops me in my tracks to this day. Makes me think of, long for, be thankful for, home. Home Sweet Home, by Mötley Crüe.

Song Home Sweet Home Piano Intro by Motley Crue
"The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned." - Maya Angelou

Some Quotes about Home:

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou

“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realized what’s changed is you.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.” – John Ed Pearce

“You can never go home again, Oatman… but I guess you can shop there.” Martin Blanke, Grosse Pointe Blank

“Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark. – Pierce Brown

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” – Maya Angelou

And to my partner, spouse, best friend, muse, truth-teller and co-Papillon Overlord waitstaff, simply:

“With you, I am always home.”

Big Thief – UfOf

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