Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Question of Home

Warning: This post may include some oversharing. Proceed at your own risk.

Many years ago, when I was in college, I was blathering on about something when a friend got impatient and asked, "Where are you actually from?" 

It shut me up for a moment, as was undoubtedly his intent — I did have far too much to say, with far too little content, back in those days — but then I had to admit, "I'm not really from anywhere."

I was born in New Rochelle, New York, a city I never lived in; my mother was staying with her parents in Larchmont while my father was in the South China Sea, on the USS Duncan. Six weeks later, Mom took my twin sister Kathy and me across the country to San Diego, where we lived on Coronado Island (before the bridge was built) for two years. My earliest conscious memories are of a rented house on Galveston Boulevard in Norfolk, Virginia, where we got a dog and my sisters Peggy and Susan were born (events listed in the order of importance to my two and three-year-old self). But before I turned four, we'd already gone up to the Bronx to stay with my father's parents for a few months while my mother waited for the birth of my brother Ed. We landed in Fairfax, Virginia in early 1970, but moved again in August 1973, this time to Virginia Beach.

"Virginia Beach" is what I usually say when people ask me where I'm from, because it's where I went to school — but I left Virginia Beach for good in the fall of 1982, when I went off to college as a 16-year-old freshman. And then I stayed in the Washington, DC area for the next 17 years, but I was notorious among my friends for moving, on average, every two years. I lived outside the Beltway and inside the Beltway: I lived in Fairfax County, Alexandria, south Arlington, Adams-Morgan, on the outskirts of Shaw, in Palisades.

Friends of mine got married, bought houses, had kids. I never quite figured that out; I did everything out of order, though that's a longer story for another time. I looked around as the last century came to a close and decided to make a big leap — this time across the country, to Los Angeles. At least in Los Angeles I lived in one single apartment for five whole years.

But Los Angeles isn't home for anybody, as near as I can tell. I do, in fact, know people who were born there and have lived their whole lives there. I have friends who are raising their children there. It doesn't change my feeling that Los Angeles is almost by definition a city of transients, a destination for people who want to reinvent themselves and escape whatever roots were tying them down.

Five years was enough time to spend in Los Angeles, a city I love and will always be grateful to/for. A friend from Washington had moved to Maine and suggested I try it, just for a season; that was nine years ago, and it's the longest I've ever lived anywhere, in my whole life. The longest I've ever lived in a single apartment, the longest I've ever lived in a single town. I got here the week the Red Sox broke the curse . . . and now it looks as if I'll be leaving not too long after the last bit of the curse is broken for good.

Because I'm going back to the Washington, DC area, on or about the first of December. The decision had been brewing for a while, but it all came together very quickly only last month. I'm finding an apartment with a beloved former housemate, and affiliating myself with a consulting firm run by an old boss and mentor. (The nature of my work is not going to change, and as far as I know I'm keeping all my clients.)

I'm glad to be going, but oh, so sorry to leave. I'm sad to be leaving Gaslight Theater. I'm sad to be saying goodbye to the ESL student I've worked with for eight years, and to the weekly literacy lab I work with at Literacy Volunteers of Greater Augusta. I hate leaving Team Clueless, the pub trivia team I play with at the Liberal Cup. I'm going to miss the river and the woods and the fact that the Gardiner postmistresses ask me for reading recommendations.

Tonight I'll be at The Liberal Cup, central Maine's best brewpub, for what will probably be my last appearance as guest host of the weekly pub trivia night. It's one of a string of "lasts" that will continue throughout the month of November. I expect to laugh a lot and cry a lot and tear out big chunks of my hair.

And then I'll go home. I hope.


Kristopher said...

As a huge fan of Mary Chapin Carpenter, I will first say thank you for the video. ;)

As for the post itself, as you know, I'm happy that you are moving to DC, just because you'll be closer and we can hang.

I moved to San Diego for 7 years and I think all of CA suffers from being a "home" of refugees. But honestly, I would have loved to stay there if I could have afforded a home. But alas, back to the home port of Baltimore, it was. And I am better for it.

Enjoy your last month in Maine. And safe travels my friend.

Laura Benedict said...

This seems like the definition of bittersweet. But I am excited about your new job and your new life. Do I sense a new blog theme coming on...?

Karen LaPlante said...

I know you have been searching for that sense of "home" and I am very happy for you and also very sad for those of us who have had the chance to get to know you. You will always be the outspoken woman who gave me the freedom to speak my mind in an equal forum. I will miss you.

Harry Murphy said...

You are definitely on a journey, which is more the point of life than the destination. And I don't believe it matters in what order life happens, as long as you are true to yurself during the happenings.

Ten years ago, if I had thought I would be in South Louisiana teaching college students, I may have had myself institutionalized. I have deciced to grow where I was planted this time. God bless you on your decision; I know you will thrive wherever you land!