My husband and I are nomads. A fun game on a quiet Friday evening involves, “If you could live anywhere, where would you live?” Answers have included large cities, various countries. The answers have surprised us, terrified us, and comforted us. Then for a bonus round, we choose which furniture we would take. I suppose this has shown that we really hate the majority of our furniture. Especially the couch we bought for $50 from a woman off Craig’s List in Seattle. Although I liked her; she had two rowdy boys, and lived in a run down little cape cod in what turned out to be a fairly expensive area of town. Being a nomad is harder when you are a parent, and own a dog. Rentals don’t want you. Everywhere seems too expensive, and then there is a whole other emotional element. The biggest differences we have had in parenting is our perception of it. Becoming a mother brings out your hidden desires and biases. Who knew I could never live in a split level (gag)? Or that he likes cities and apartments, but couldn’t live in them with two kids and a dog? Or that the random homeless guy on our street would scare me so much more once I was pushing a stroller? Giving birth opens up so many hidden vulnerabilities in you.
We are looking for home. I constantly wonder, does everyone else go through this? This constant search for the place where the best parts of their childhood and adult selves converge? Are we just over-thinking it? Ever since we moved back to Florida, we both knew that it wouldn’t be permanent. Being pregnant with a second child now, makes me remember aspects about my own childhood. We talk about our favorite things. So many of mine revolve around the seasons. There was apple picking in the fall, and pies to be made. Pumpkins, and chilly October evenings perfect for a light jacket and a fire. Snow, and sledding, ice skating, trips to Chicago. He remembers big family gatherings, being close to his cousins, and the smell of the country: “Kind of gross, but nostalgic too.” We both ache for home. And then these things need to combine with our adult biases. We like good organic food, strong coffee, interesting people to hang out with. We are looking for all the best parts of a city, without the city prices. Does such a place even exist?
We’ve started to look at houses in his home town, a small middle of nowhere town in Pennsylvania. It’s quiet, and people live there forever, including most of his family. Driving around at night, the streets are silent, the streetlights hazy. It’s the kind of place where people rarely lock their doors. I didn’t know places like it still existed. And the houses, oh my, the houses themselves are enough to overcome the small town-ness of it. Great big 1800’s houses with period details, hulking doorways, towering ceilings. Houses with a history. Houses I could write my novel in (creative people work better in places with higher ceilings).
We have discovered that we are emotional real estate buyers. To love a house is more than the sum of its parts. It’s the feeling at the front door, finding all the best hiding spots for hide and go seek. It’s all those little quirky features that make it yours. I grew up on Lake Michigan in a cold windy town in Northern Indiana, in a drafty house built in the 1930’s. It had a laundry chute that ran down to the basement, and a drop down ironing board in the kitchen, inside a narrow little cabinet. My parents sold that home years ago, but the second they found a house in Florida with an ironing board just like it, they fell in love. Sometimes it’s all the little things that you remember. It doesn’t matter that I have never seen my mother iron on it, although I did many times as a child in Indiana, it’s the memory of it all.
But tell me, what is home to you? A smell? A memory? Have you found it, or are you eternally searching?