Monday, November 23, 2009
The Search for Home
When I was a teenager I gave my mom a Mother’s Day card that said, “Wherever I travel, Wherever I roam…Wherever my Mom is will always be home.” And because of the special connection she and I had, she knew I meant it, and she framed the card in a black frame and hung it above the piano in her collection of family photos and artwork.
That framed card is in my house in Las Vegas now, and whenever I look at it I wonder exactly where home is for me now. Mom passed away over ten years ago, so if that card’s sentiment is still true, I am a little lost.
I’m writing this from Indiana during Thanksgiving Week, in the town I grew up in, where memories (good and bad) lurk around every corner. And the whole time I wonder, where is home? When I’m in Las Vegas, I refer to my hometown of Paoli, Indiana as “home.” But when I’m in Paoli, Las Vegas gets that title of honor. So, what is home to me? I’ve lived in Las Vegas for over 15 years, yet I don’t feel that it will ever feel like home. And it has been twenty years since I’ve lived in Paoli…I appreciate and miss the family history I have there, but it doesn’t feel like Me anymore.
So, if Paoli isn’t home but neither is Vegas, where would be the ideal place for me? My husband says no to anywhere he would have to shovel snow, so that limits my choices. Lately I think we would really like it in the Northwest, maybe Portland, Oregon, but the funny thing is that I’ve never been there! I’m looking for a place with open-minded people, people who appreciate nature & culture, a university, and access to city life and natural beauty.
But would that finally feel like home? The location would be great but still there would be no family connection or history, none of the friends from Vegas we’ve known for years, and my mom still wouldn’t be there.
I don’t think there is an answer. Instead, I will go on making memories, enjoying life, and making our current place a home. And then finally, someday, I’m sure I will suddenly realize that Home has a definite location for me. Someday.
Or maybe I should just be thankful that I have several places to call home. I’m lucky to have fond memories of the hometown where I grew up and the city home where I’ve led my adult life, and maybe many more places will earn that title of honor, even temporarily. If home is where the heart is, I can just spread the love around, right?
I write this from the only place in Paoli where I can get an internet wireless connection, with a view toward the southeast side of town. Let's see what memories I can stir up from my view out this window - memories that happened while Paoli was my home:
I can see the back of the library building, where I used to go in the side entrance to the children's section in the basement, where Mrs. Ott used to read us stories.
The market I sit in right now used to be the Variety Store, where as a child I loved to go because you could buy lots of cheap things - candy, toys, sewing projects, kitchen trinkets. Mom received many Christmas gifts that I purchased here, and when she was a child she used to come here with her mom.
My Grandma's church would be in view if it weren't for a large semi trailor that is blocking my view. During my childhood I spent summers in their basement for Vacation Bible School. It's also where we gathered for a free dinner with family and friends on the day of my Mom's funeral.
Farther on is the liquor store, where we never went, since my Mom was a teacher and this is a small town in the Bible Belt. I went in there once a few years ago and couldn't shake the feeling that I was being bad!
I can see the roof of Crockett's Flowers & Gifts, the florist from whom we ordered flowers for Mother's Day or birthdays or funerals, and where I would run inside to pick up my friend Pam for a playdate in elementary school. Just up the hill was where Jennifer C lived in a large yellow brick house...I think I may have spent the night there once or twice.
The highway that heads out of town to the southeast logged thousands of miles during my life in Paoli, when Mom and I went to Louisville to see musicals and ballets, to Kentucky to visit relatives, or to Florida or South Carolina for summer vacations.
And through the trees I can see the roof of the old brick Stalcup building - now converted into a business, where my Grandma, and my Mom and her sister, went to high school. Tall and stately above the trees, it was on its grounds that we rehearsed for the musical Oklahoma! when I was a kid, and I still refer to that time as "the good old days", when I began to love the theatre.
All of the above memories, just off the top of my head, from this one tiny window view.
I feel lucky to have called this place home, even if it was only for a while. And I think it will always stay on my list of places to call home. I'm thankful for that, no matter where I end up.