My most heartfelt wishes for your season and your new year. Good luck. May it always get better.
This will run in the December 28th edition of the Alameda Sun on the Family Fun Zone page:
I traveled back to New York City on business recently. And, because my hometown is only 13 miles away, I sandwiched a visit to my father and some family and friends into my work agenda, staying in the house I grew up in, sleeping in my old bed and hanging out around the kitchen table. I really can’t call it “home,” though. I haven’t lived there since 1984, but it sure feels so familiar.
I lived in New York for many years, after college and a final stint in my parents’ home, and love going back, spending time in the City. This trip, I was fortunate enough to stay right in Midtown for three days, and play tourist between meetings. I saw the Christmas tree and skaters at Rockefeller Center and the snowflake that hangs annually over the corner of 57th Street and 5th Avenue. I felt refreshed by the energy of New York, as I always do. It often feels like home to me—an old home, at least, a place where I feel comfortable.
Surprisingly, the New Jersey portion of the trip felt even more comfortable than my time in Gotham. It hasn’t always been that way, but this time, driving up and down the local highway routes, passing the diners and the only-in-New-Jersey, only-on-the-east-coast sights, I was flush with nostalgia. Maybe it was because I was with my father, who I love to spend any time with, or perhaps it was a longing to go back to a time when I didn’t have so many responsibilities and before all of life’s heartaches. I really had way too much fun. It’s terribly ironic to me now that I feel certain homesickness for a place that I purposefully and most determinedly moved away from so many years ago.
When one of my daughters was in the first grade, she announced to her class that she was from New Jersey. When I corrected her later that day at the dinner table, told her that no, indeed, she was actually from northern San Diego County, where she was born, if you wanted to be technical about it, she was horrified and quite upset. “But you are from New Jersey!” she screamed. “Doesn’t that make me from New Jersey?” I never knew anyone who actually wanted to be from the most densely populated and definitely most harangued state in the union. I have heard somebody once say, “New Jersey is a great place to be from.” I suppose that really means you just don’t live there anymore.
What is this thing we call “Home,” really? We all know that home isn’t just where you are living. It’s a place that you need to get back to over and over again. You experienced it in your childhood or you saw it at some point along the way to where you are now. It’s a feeling we all strive for, isn’t it? We work to either re-create what we are familiar with or to create anew a feeling that we insist must be home. Must feel like “home.”
Can you have more than one home? My children live in two separate houses and I worry that they only feel comfortable, feel home, in one (let it be mine, please!). Or, what could be worse, that they don’t have a homey feeling in either location. When they look back on their lives, where will they consider home? I surely have a sense of home in more than one place—in New Jersey, in New York, in Alameda and some other places that I treasure. I hope it is the same for my children. I hope they see a benefit in having two homes now and develop the capacity to create a home-like atmosphere in multiple places.
My latest epiphany is that home doesn’t have to be a past experience or a longing. It can be where you are, where you are right now. Home is a feeling that is dynamic, ever changing from year to year, experience to experience. I want my girls to understand that wherever they feel a sense of comfort and love, in one place or many places, that’s home.
Here’s hoping your holiday season feels like “home,” in the best sense of the word.