Home. What's home, exactly?

Last night, Monday night, my Love asked me a question, that I didn't know how to answer.

If I could choose anywhere I had lived, “What city's culture influenced you the most?”

He might as well have asked me, “Where is home, Em?” for all the looks he got.

Where is home, what city/town's culture influenced me the most...

When someone asks me, “Where are you from?” I say, “Kalamazoo.” If I told them, that I spent my formative years in Plainwell, I'd get a blank stare-- “Where the fuck is that?” It's twenty minutes south of Kalamazoo... So yeah, Kalamazoo. I've always loved that city, and when I got a car and as a young woman, I spent a lot of time in Kalamazoo. If I wasn't there, I would go to South Haven.

When I think of home, I don't think of a place. I haven't thought of a place in many years. When I was in Germany I'd talk about “home” as the US, some abstract idea of my home country. I didn't really think, “the yellow house in Plainwell” as home, or my grandparents' house in New Mexico. I didn't think of any one Place, just the idea of a comfortable, safe place, that was home.

Later I lived in Dallas, the Oak Lawn neighbourhood. I loved that place! So many bad things were going on in the apartment I lived in, and I was struggling so hard to make a good life for my little boy, and the baby I had on the way. But I loved that neighbourhood, and I loved my job, and the people I worked with. That was home-- the best I could make it, anyway. My studio was crowded and my ex wasn't willing to do anything to help (he was too busy playing EQ and then DaoC, before moving to AC*-- he was an MMO whore). My son was safe, he was happy and his laughter filled the studio. That was what made it home, I think. It was a place I would walk into, close the door, and rest. Even with all the turmoil that he caused, I could still override my ex's negativity and make it a home.

In 2005 we moved back to Michigan and stayed with my parents. My ex was suffering PTSD, refusing help, and generally being abusive-- which wasn't much different than normal, really. But I was determined to make a home for my kids. Lawrence is a cute little town, maybe 1 000 people live there (as of July 2009, they had less than a thousand people living there, officially). The school, though, is top-notch! The townsfolk care for each other, and you feel like you're home, like you're welcome.

There's an ox roast to celebrate homecoming every fall! They have a Hallowe'en parade for the school kids to walk in-- well, dance. They dance down the street in costume, and it's so cute you can hardly stand it-- even if you're like me, and don't even like kids. They worked hard, saved, canvassed and even raised a small millage to build a new library to replace the one in the basement of one of the shops. This library is gorgeous! They support their kids whole-heartedly, and the school kids regularly score highly on their ACT's, MEAPS and Terra Novas-- not bad for a school so small that K-8 are in the same building, and the high school is across the bus lane, huh?

That was home for awhile. It was a good home, full of love and laughing. My ex left, and it was OK with me. The kids and I went on, and they didn't seem to miss him much. He was always gone, anyway, so this wasn't any different. My mother moved out, surprising Dad and I a lot. He was completely heart-broken. She gave us no warning; well, I shouldn't say that. She had been acting really weird and strange. I thought it was partly the hormone replacement she was taking-- they can make you act a little weird. And then she started taking herbal supplements, and freaking out-- it was pure quackery, except what it did to her. It sure didn't help her! I'd say she had a psychotic break, except that the inner-woman I'd always been afraid of, was coming out in public. The woman who was cruel, angry, vicious, she wasn't hiding any more. She didn't care who saw her. So I guess it was more that her personality got tired of pretending to be nice.

But it was still home. Dad and I worked really hard to make sure that the kids didn't notice a difference now that she wasn't there. There was still laughter, still love-- even if we adults were a little slower to laugh, and a little more obsessed with “the divorce” that was dragging out. [I'll deal with it one of these days. It was ugly.]

It was home. I made it home for my kids, and myself.

I moved down to Tucson in November of 2008. My Love came with me, and we embarked on a life together. We lived in the cutest crooked little town-house. It was two storeys, narrow as hell, and adorably tipsy! Remember that child's nursery rhyme: There was a crooked man, who walked a crooked mile**? That was what I always thought when I was in the kitchen of that town-house, and I loved it.

Yeah, it was cramped, and yes, we had barely a thousand square feet for five people to live there. Yes, we had neighbours who were complete fuckheads, raising pit bulls for who knows what (I cannot prove that they fought those dogs, but I do know they beat them, didn't feed them properly and they were hideously aggressive. Staffordshire terriers can be good dogs, these were raised by very very bad people. Yes, I called the local shelter, the ASPCA and the pound, but they couldn't/wouldn't do anything until someone got bitten. Even if the dogs were hurting. I felt horrible about that.)

It was home. We made it home, filled it with love, and happiness. No matter how hard that first year was-- and it wasn't easy. No matter what we went through, we were happy. My Love and I never worried if we were ok, we never worried if our relationship would survive. We just grew together, evolving and entwining, like vines.

Now, we're here, in our house. It took awhile to find the house, and longer to buy it. But it's ours! And we love it. Our house is bigger than the town-house was, and we have a garage! Even a back yard! The cats can run through the house, shit, the kids can run through it. It's in a sleepy litle sub-division.

It's home.

Home to me, isn't a place, per se. It's a central idea. Part of that is probably b ecause I didn't spent my life in one place. The military moved me around a lot from the time I was 12 straight through adulthood. I left home behind with my parents, and my cat, and my favourite beach on Lake Michigan. But I took it with me, home. I carried it in my heart, and in my pocket, and when I lived in an apartment, a slum, the ghetto, some shithole, I got it out, shook out the wrinkles and spread home all over my living space.

It wasn't perfect, of course, this home-in-my-pocket. But it worked.

So, I guess I can't answer his question, what city influenced me. I told him Kalamazoo, probably, but more like Austin, a city I never lived in, but lived close enough. My politics aren't like my home-town. That's what happens when you take home with you-- you grow in a completely different way from home.

Now, I'm making home for my kids. No more moving until they're all graduated. That's why we bought the house in the first place.
Home is happiness. And sadness, but you share those together.
It's love. And it's also the “I hate you, you hate me, I hate everything” part of growing up, and the rolled eyes that go with that.
It's knowing you're in your safe place, and you won't be hurt here. It's walking in the door, and knowing, “take a deep breath, you're home now.”

Home is Christmas cookies, and home-made bread, when it's not Christmas.
It's kitties on the couch, or trying to get your attention.
It's books everywhere, and a comfy chair.
It's family movie night, and random cartoons-- just because we felt like it.
Home is Thanksgiving turkey in June, just because we want turkey and stuffing.
It's trying new things, eating new food and deciding that no, we really didn't like that, at all!
It's hard stuff, too, like bickering kids, and growing pains, and watching your kids hurt, and not being able to help. But, it's home.

Home is playing games together, as a family. Laughing at Fruit Ninja on the 360 (have you seen it? It's hilarious!) or racing games.
Home is being together, even if the world is falling apart. Because inside that door, in this safe place, it's going to be OK.

I don't have a home town, really. Not in the way more people do. But I do have a home, and I'm lucky enough to be sitting in it, right now, tapping away at my light-up keyboard, writing this blog.

I spent many years home-less in the meaning that I lived somewhere, but home was tucked away in my pocket, an idea, not a reality. I wasn't sleeping outdoors, thankfully, but I was sleeping afraid. It's hard to make home for yourself, or your kids, when you're afraid.

Now, though, I have a home. I have my Beloved Husband who's helping me make it that way.

They say, you can never go home again, but that's OK, I brought it with me.

*Ever Quest, Dark Age of Camelot and then Acheron's Call.

**There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house


  1. I'll go a little further in to what brought this entire question to bear. Anyone that knows me knows that when I am asked where I hail from, I will always say Detroit. I was reading another blog yesterday that basically said that because I did not live within the city borders I am not a Detroiter.

    I do not believe this for a moment. I grew up 4 blocks off the Detroit River, just about 5 miles from the city line. I could see the Ren Cen and Ambassador Bridge from the park on the water. I worked in the city proper for a couple years before moving to a job in Pontiac. Even working that far north, I lived 3 blocks off 8-mile road (yes, THAT 8-mile road) in a city that was once named East Detroit. I still carry a 313 area code in my pocket. The culture of that city is steeped into me.

    Just because my home address did not denote Detroit, doesn't mean I'm not from Detroit. I'm proud of the city that I grew up driving through and frequenting for the first 2 and a half decades of my life, and get massive home sickness each year in January and August (NAIAS and Woodward Dream Cruise). So to anyone that thinks that a suburbanite can't be a Detroiter, may I give you a hearty Fuck You.

    ok, done ranting...


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