When expats get together, one of the standard openers is, “How long have you been here?” After that, the next is, “Where are you from?” Knowing those things helps to establish common ground. It’s the same when people meet anywhere. When you meet someone new, you want to see what commonalities you may share. It helps get the conversation moving.
For decades, I’ve heard folks talk about going “back home” for holidays, weddings and other celebrations. Home. What exactly does that mean? Is it a place? A history? A set of friends and family members? A collection of memories; a visual scrapbook? Perhaps it’s your old high school or the place where your parents are buried. Maybe it’s all that and more.
I know, for certain, that the definitions of home vary from person to person. I know because I have asked many people what defines home for them. As one who has no sense of a historical home, it is important for me to understand how others define home, just in case I discover a definition I can relate to.
When asked where I’m from, my standard answer, and one that feels the most authentic to me, is to say, “Right here. Wherever Diane is, is my home.”
To be honest, for a very long time, I was envious of people who claimed a home. I believed it to mean a place where they were raised; a place where all those Leave it to Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet memories were created. Remember those television families? They were the fictional portrayals of families many years ago and one that was completely foreign to me. Truth be told, they weren’t any closer to reality then than they are now.
Suffice it to say that I lived in many homes. I attended, I think, 7 high schools and countless elementary schools. I can’t remember the name of even one childhood friend. We moved a lot.
Then, there was my military service with more moves to distant places ending in Alaska where I spent over 20 years isolated from family in the lower 48. Over the years, my siblings all found their own paths. We lost touch and then reestablished connections and lost touch again…intentionally. Family drama and trauma. I know I’m not entirely unique in that way.
And now, we live in South America, a continent away from family and former lives. I was asked, once again, where I was from. I responded that “My home is here for now and wherever Diane and I are… that is my home.” As authentic as my response has always been when I say those words, I still feel some sort of inner longing for roots…a belonging. Perhaps my longing for a sense of home is actually a longing for the functional family I never had. Yeah…that’s probably it. My home will always be with Diane.