During our trip, I was reminded once again that I don’t live “at home” anymore.
Four years ago, five months pregnant, Husband and I picked up and moved to a new state. I’ve thought many times along the way that this new place has become home – that any place that houses my man and my kids would. But spending more than two weeks on our former home turf made me think about the ways I still feel like a stranger in a strange land.
I was reminded of the way my body relaxes when I first see the George Washington Bridge while speeding down the West Side Highway. I was reminded of the comfort I feel in having a Dunkin’ Donuts (and its magical coffee) on every other corner. And I was reminded of Denise’s and Lindsey’s “Where I’m From” posts from last fall and started to play with those ideas:
I am from quaint. I am from town greens and tidy white churches. I am from classic colonials with picket fences.
I am from fall foliage, from prep school bonfires, from L.L. Bean backpacks. I am from Nantucket red.
I am from the smell of salt water by the shore. I am from splintery docks. I am from mosquitoes.
I am from Italian food and thin-crust pizza. I am from Dairy Queen Blizzards and vanilla ice cream cones with chocolate dip.
I am from the Putnam Bridge and the Merritt Parkway. I am from Zabar’s and Fairway and H&H Bagels. I am from Walden Pond.
I am from soda.
I am not from pop.
I am not from cornfields. I am not from soybean crops.
I am not from county fairs and deep-fried elephant ears. I am not from llama farms.
I am not from Bob Evans.
But my kids are.
They are Midwesterners.
I was a New Englander. Husband was a New Yorker. But now we’re a mix, a composite. A typical American family with roots elsewhere, but blossoms here.
And I’m reminded once again of Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife, of the charms and comforts of the place I live now. And I wonder when my body will come to feel at home here in the way it still does in the places I’m from:
Then we were back in Wisconsin, a place that in late summer is thrillingly beautiful. When I was young, this was knowledge shared by everyone around me; as an adult, I’ve never stopped being surprised by how few of the people with whom I interact have any true sense of the states between Pennsylvania and Colorado…Admittedly, the area possesses a dowdiness I personally have always found comforting, but to think of Wisconsin specifically or the Midwest as a whole as anything other than beautiful is to ignore the extraordinary power of the land. The lushness of the grass and trees in August, the roll of the hills (far less of the Midwest is flat than outsiders seem to imagine), that rich smell of soil, the evening sunlight over a field of wheat, or the crickets chirping at dusk on a residential street: All of it, it has always made me feel at peace. There is room to breathe, there is a realness of place. The seasons are extreme, but they pass and return, pass and return, and the world seems far steadier than it does from the vantage point of a coastal city…It is quietly lovely, not preening with the need to have its attributes remarked on. It is the place I am calmest and most myself.
Will I someday believe those words? To be able to write them with conviction?
Where are you from? Where are you most at home?