I looked up “home” in Merriam-Webster. Here is what I found:

  1. one’s place of residence, domicile
  2. the social unit formed by a family living together
  3. a familiar or usual setting, congenial environment; also, the focus of one’s domestic attention
  4. a place of origin

This came to mind because on the bus earlier today I was watching Garden State with my girlfriend Nicole, and Zach Braff’s character says:

You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden, even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone. One day it just sort of happens and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know? You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.

That struck a chord with both Nicole and I. She is about to graduate college and go to work all summer on a boat (which is in some ways a home and in some ways not), after which she plans to move to Boston with me. Also, just after we watched this segment of the movie, she got a call from her parents who were packing up her room at her dad’s house, because he’s moving. It was moving for me because I am traveling for most of 2010, without a regular home to go back to. Until recently, the house in Amherst that I grew up in was my home, and Connecticut College was home for a short time too. But I graduated college, so that stopped being home. And when I’m done with my big cross-country trip, I will abruptly move to Boston, and that will be my home.  It’s very turbulent when you feel like you don’t have a home.

But the dictionary definition provides some solace, echoed by some cheesy and some not-so-cheesy thoughts I’ve had. Definitions 2 and 3 reflect one feeling I’ve had about home recently: that home for me is wherever Nicole is. But that doesn’t capture the full meaning of “home”. That meaning is fleshed out in definition 4, which assures me that Amherst is still my home (and 2 and 3 say that as well). Definition 3, further, imparts a label of “home” upon any familiar place. So Amherst is still my home, as is Connecticut College, as is Camberville, as are all the places I’ve been enough to breed familiarity.

So, while it can indeed be sad realizing that the place that was once undeniably your home is now not as fully your home, this plurality is comforting in a way. It’s comforting because the more places you can call home, the more places you are excited about arriving at. And that’s a good thing. What are your thoughts about the concept of “home”?

3 Replies to “Home”

  1. I generally consider home to be by city rather than by house. It is usually somewhere where I have a sense of belonging, a sense of welcome, and somewhere feel I know very well.

    Swarthmore/Center Philadelphia to me is a home, and currently where I spend most of my time. Deux Pas, my apartment, is the focal point of that homeness, but Swarthmore will still be a home.

    D.C. is a home, or at least the D.C. metro area. I grew up in Germantown, but have not been back there since I moved back from Bruxelles. I never felt I belonged there. We lived in Rockville/Bethesda during my high school years, and after I moved to college my parents moved to DC NW. Shortly after, I lived there for a semester and a summer when I took time off from Swat when I was very ill. Since then, I haven’t been here for more than two weeks. There is no longer any space for my stuff – it’s a two bedroom condo, with the second bedroom being my parent’s office. There’s a fold out loveseat/twin bed and an air mattress for when my brother and I are home at the same time, but none of our stuff lives her permanently. But I belong here, as it is my parents house, and I am always welcome here. It is home.

    Bruxelles is home, though one I haven’t visited in too long, and all the people I know there have long since moved away. But it is the first place where I ever felt any sense of belonging, and it will always be home.

    Boston/Camberville is home. I’ve spent more time there in the past two years than I have in D.C. I probably know more people there than I do at Swarthmore, most of whom are excited that I will be moving there in less than a month. I feel a lot of apprehension about Boston; I don’t have a job yet nor an apartment past summer, I’m not sure how my relationship will transition from long distance to living together, or how I’ll like the winter. But as much as moving there will be going some place new, it will also be going home.


  2. I don’t remember liking that movie as much as I thought I was going to, but I think that is one of my favourite parts of it.

    And, as you know, recently I’ve had huge issues with the concept of home, mainly because I lost mine. Or… the thing that was the base of my concept of home.

    I never really thought about it until I left, which is one of the reasons I’m glad I went far away for school, but… I agree that there are different ways of thinking about home, and that I certainly have different places/concepts of home.

    When I’m at school, my dorm room is home, though in the grand scheme of things it’s not a place I consider to be truly home. It’s home in the sense of it is where I am living at the time, much as my house right now serves that purpose.

    Massachusetts and the Boston area I consider home as well, mostly when I’m not here but also a bit when I am. It’s because it’s the area I’m coming from, the area I’ve spent most of my life, and the area I feel best suited to and where I fit the best.

    My home really was my house, but because my family lived there. So that goes along with one of your definitions there. And… now that my family doesn’t really exist, that’s gone.

    And my most specific home was my room, namely because that was the one place that I always could go if I needed to feel safe. My room was like a physical extension of myself and it was where everything was the way I needed it to be… and I don’t think that a lot of people have that, but that concept of home, where I feel completely safe and where I am myself, that’s probably the most valuable to me at this point in time where my other places of living are transitory and thus unable to become a place like that… and that’s why that was the part that hurt the most- when my parents destroyed my room. Because it essentially meant that I came “home”, but couldn’t go to the one place that felt most like home to me.

    It’s interesting. 🙂 Especially the feeling you get when you feel like you’ve come home, wherever that may be.

    <3 Em

  3. Finding home has been something of an epic journey for me. I have been trying to figure out what exactly home is to me… and I am still working on it. Partly, it is the feeling I have inside where I am comfortable wherever I am. There is some deeper element of home-ness, though, that relies on having stuff and having all that stuff be in order. One of these days, I’ll write my story about finding home. 🙂

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