Growing up in Ohio, home for me was our 4-bedroom, 2.5-bath house in the suburbs. Approximately 12 miles away from downtown, and mere minutes away from school, the mall, the post office, the library, the dentist, and the park. Home = house. Forever safe, forever the same. Phone number and address permanently emblazoned in my mind.
When I went away to school, the idea of home had to be redefined. Now I lived in a dorm with a roommate and two floors worth of more roommates. Now all the people who were my support circle in high school were all experiencing their own re-awakenings all over the country at college. So I lived in my freshman dorm for a year and then moved into my sorority house for the next three. But since the people I belonged to — my non-family family — lived all over campus, the collective community of Stanford became my home. Home did not equal house; home = being surrounded by people who were loving, knowing, and shaping me during those formative years.
Post-college I lived in my own apartment in Campbell, which is really just an extension of San Jose. Suddenly college friends have their own lives and jobs and careers to start. Mom and Dad still live back at original Home. And I am working, experiencing the highs and lows of my first year of teaching, plus the odd freedom of not having a roommate for the first time in five years. Still have friends and now have colleagues who are growing into friends. Back to home as a physical space: home = my own 1-bedroom apartment.
When now-Husband first moved into my apartment, we struggled. Not because we didn’t love each other, but because I didn’t make physical space for his arrival. There was nowhere to put his clothes or his stuff, and God forbid that I do any kind of rearranging of MY things to make his transition easier. I didn’t know how to negotiate our physical and emotional space, now that we were finally together in the same city instead of doing long-distance. That was a known quantity, and this was brand new. Needless to say, we moved into a different apartment six months later, and even though it was smaller, we created our home space together. We were much happier. No more sharing My Apartment with him, but living in Our Apartment. New home once again.
Now we are living in Alaska. Initially, we crashed at his parents’ house — a beautiful space, but far away from town and not meant for us as a married couple. Live with in-laws?? At the present time, we are house-sitting for his aunt and uncle in a 4-bedroom attached condo. It’s new and it’s clean and spacious… but it’s not home.
Physically, we are home-less, and we’ll have to make decisions around that in the not-so-distant future. In fact, we are attending a free home-buying workshop this Saturday to arm ourselves with much-needed information about our options here. But honestly, since the second we have shared the same space, even in My Apartment, home = wherever and whenever I am with Husband. I should add Husband plus Dog at this point, actually. There is a love and security that surrounds me whenever we are together, even when we disagree, and most of all when we are laughing together. I think that was the hardest part of moving up to Alaska at separate times: living in Our Apartment without him. I was existing in our physical home without my emotional home, and it made my heart hurt. Literally.
As a teacher and in my role at school, I am privy to knowledge of students who are living in broken homes, and that also hurts my heart. At the same time, it makes me ever so grateful for the Home that Husband and I continue to build together, each day that we are married, and throughout all of the moments of transition and adaptation and cold. I certainly believe that the space we eventually call our home will earn its importance in our lives, but for now I am content with this Home.
*For the record, Mom & Dad’s landline is listed permanently in my phone as Home Home; it deserves that distinction.