Since I graduated from high school in Northern NY state back in 1995, I've led a rather rootless existence bouncing around the midwest (and briefly back to Northern NY). It seemed just when I'd start to develop some semblance of a sense of home, circumstances would arise or decisions would be made which involved relocation.
Growing up I never pictured myself ever living in Ohio or in Illinois. I had nothing against either state. I just pictured myself staying somewhere in the east. Life has a funny way of changing that. As I grew older I had this growing gnawing voice inside that said "go midwest young man." (I'm far too pedestrian a sort to go west... but "midwest" ahh, that's different). So that I did.
I remember it was September 1995. I'd only been in college for about a month. One of my favorite bands (Chicago) was putting on a benefit concert at Notre Dame and the fan club of said band was having a get together in Chicago at Demon Dogs (a now closed hot dog stand, owned by Chicago manager Peter Schivarelli, featuring Chicago related memorabilia on its walls) prior to the concert. One of my online friends from suburban Detroit had a friend who bailed on her so she had a spare ticket to said concert and get together. I figured, sure, why the hell not. Short of passing through O'Hare on a few flights, I'd never been to Chicago.
I remember driving into Chicago on the skyway... I saw that beautiful Chicago skyline. I daresay it was love at first sight. I knew I HAD to be there.
A few years passed, suddenly I was a senior in college and the opportunity presented itself to spend my final semester of college in Hyde Park, a rather eclectic and ethnically diverse community on the south side of Chicago. The program's literature stated that Chicago was the classroom. It delivered in spades. The first 2 days of the program were dedicated to getting us acclimated to our new surroundings. The first day in Hyde Park, the next day in the city itself. We were totally immersed in the city and set free to our own devices to explore the areas they assigned to us. Over the course of the semester time was spent in Little Saigon, Pilsen, Andersonville, Rogers Park, South Shore, to name a few of many Chicago neighborhoods we were given exposure to.
When the semester ended, due to lack of job prospects, I found myself relocating back to Northern NY with my parents for a short spell (8 months). It was 8 months too long. I was happy to escape to Ohio in March 2000-- returning to work at the same amusement park where I'd summered in 1997 and 1998... this time trying to get my foot in the door with a full-time position. Those plans didn't quite pan out but I did stay in Ohio long enough for it to start feeling like home to me. The surroundings grew increasingly more familiar and the area felt "right" to me... But there was still that gnawing inside to return to Chicago.
The story of how I happened to end up in Chicago from Ohio has already been told. At first it truly didn't feel like home to me either. I was living with my then-girlfriend initially. Eventually said girlfriend and I moved to the 'burbs and got our first place "together"-- up to that point I felt like I was part of the furniture in my girlfriend's then apartment.
Last Friday that girlfriend-- now wife, and I closed on our first home. We have until September 30th to vacate our apartment so we're moving slowly but surely-- living in our apartment during the week, finishing packing and etc. and living in the new home on the weekends-- painting, cleaning, and making the place OURS before our furniture ends up getting moved on September 23rd.
Yesterday I had to drive out to the new home to open the garage door so Sears could install the new garage door opener. The seller didn't leave me with a key to the garage and there was no way I was going to leave the door open in my absence. At any rate-- as I was driving out there, it was all starting to sink in-- geographically speaking... I finally feel like I'm "home." After the garage door was installed, I took the time to put together my new gas grill. It was a weird feeling, knowing that I was in my home, that I was settling so comfortably into suburban middle American life.
I've always believed that we all have a spiritual home... it's a place we go where we feel "right"-- like we're where we're supposed to be. In all honesty I think that's the source of at least a portion of average teenage angst... I think at that age we're all still kind of lost souls trying to find our way "home" because home isn't necessarily where we're born or raised, as children we're too young to know any better or to care. But by the time adolescence sets in, so does a restlessness and with that restlessness comes a frustration and a strong desire to be anywhere but "there" (wherever "there" happens to be). Hopefully by adulthood we find our way "home." Sometimes home is a place, sometimes it's a person... sometimes a combination of both. With me I believe it's the latter. It's the combination of being with my wife HERE. I'd feel at home with her whether I were here or Timbuktu, but there's something about being here that just amplifies that feeling of home exponentially.
Or maybe I'm over-analyzing this... maybe it's just a general feeling of "arrival" (and by arrival I don't mean the Journey album), or a sense that I've finally caught up with the Joneses. At any rate there is a general semblance of well-being and peace that I haven't had in awhile.
I've also noticed that I'm far quicker to take care of my new home than I was to take care of the apartment my wife and I are soon to vacate. I take pride in the little things about it; the painting, decorating, cleaning, putting on all those touches that make it not just a residence... but a home.
Current Music: Queen - Now I'm Here (how appropriate, LOL)