Friday, May 22, 2009

Home is where the familiar is

Home is this place where I ride my bike to the grocery store without bothering to put on real shoes, and where, as I am buying a dozen apples and a block of sharp cheddar (because there is a refrigerator to keep these sorts of things in), the cashier asks me not just "How are you today?" but also, "EspaƱol?"

And yes, I've come home.

I never considered the availability of crackers and cheese, or the likelihood of being mistaken for being Hispanic, or the feasibility of never wearing shoes and socks, to be an integral part of Home, when I lived here. The mariachi music my neighbors blast used to annoy me; the hip-hop bathing the street on a Friday morning evoked my disdain. This morning, though, these little things (the grit of my neighborhood) root me more firmly in the familiarity. I feel like saying: This is my neighborhood. This is my place.

Coming back here for the summer when we lived abroad was wonderful, but it was never home. Then again, neither was going back to the house on the other side of the Pacific. When we moved back here for good, that wasn't home, either. Nothing was safe and comfortable. New and Exciting aren't inferior, but they aren't Home, either.

I didn't feel a sense of home until I was older. Maybe you have to be an adult with a history, an agent in control of your circumstances (at least to a greater degree than you do as a child), a mind with an understanding of the larger environment, to really recognize: this is home, this is not.

I know now, though. Here, I am at home.

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