Home is a complicated thing.
A few months ago I I was in H&M browsing the men’s sweater department, which is where all good sweaters are found. I stumbled upon a sweatshirt that said “Home is Where” and my mind, without missing a beat, filled in “where the heart is”. It was a cute shirt stating “home is where the heart is”. I considered buying it, but eventually weighted my dubious financial state and walked away.
I’ve always been a bit of a homebody. Always the girl proclaiming I would live next door to my parents.
And yet I find myself living in, and loving a city, only one of them has ever even visited.
It may sound strange, but among a family that has almost unanimously chosen to live on gravel roads, my affection for city lights feels a bit like a betrayal. Loving this thing that is so foreign from my roots, turning away from what is.
Similar to the way I tried, for so many years, to love lefse. I just never could. Regardless of how much butter or brown sugar, or white sugar, or jam. Everyone had a suggestion to make lefse fantastic, but I just never could crave nor love it. I ate it because I wanted to love it. I wanted to feel Norwegian. I wanted to feel like family. So I rolled up cold lefse pieces and crunched through grainy sugar and tried, dammit, to play along with the script.
In that way, I fear I can’t love the land my great-grandparents cultivated in Minnesota and still love the energy, possibility, and acceptance this big city gives me.
Of course, that’s not true. There’s room for both. Because, thank goodness, we (hopefully) aren’t two dimensional people. Let’s all agree not to be two-dimensional people, please? Deal. Cool. Moving on….
So, shortly before my departure date back to Minnesota I was back in an H&M scouring the racks for a cheap New Years Eve outfit when I found myself, once again, standing in front of that “Home is Where” shirt. This time it was on the sale rack, and maybe we can blame those reduced circumstances for the shift from my previous perception, because suddenly my brain replaced “Home is Where…the heart is” with “home is where…?” There was a big, ‘ol question mark at the end of it. And despite its awesome cut and a reduced price, I turned away. That question mark that had suddenly appeared in my brain couldn’t be shaken. A question mark that suddenly seemed pretty spot on, and a bit too sad for me.
Life went on. I packed my things, I walked to the subway, took the A train to Penn Station, bought a rail ticket to New Jersey, took the airtran from NJ to my terminal and boom! An hour and a half later, I was on a plane destined for Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I was on my way home.
But like I said, home is a complicated thing. Years ago, my parents moved away from my childhood house in Fargo, North Dakota, and I’ll be honest, I felt a bit displaced at first. At the time, I had considered this a betrayal to the memories I had cultivated there. Now, with my 20/20 hindsight glasses on, I understand they were giving me a gift. They pushed me, regardless of how unconscious it was, to stop being a girl and to start being a woman. Stop resting on my laurels. Box up those letter jackets, picture collages, and high school awards. It’s bittersweet, but my god, that abrupt end to childhood suddenly seems like such a blessing. A fresh start. To stop returning each holiday to a room that held everything that was.
Last night I was back on a plane returning to that gorgeous blanket of glittering lights. And when I slid into bed with Selemon, even in our temporary, rented apartment, I felt better than I ever have. And unlike sliding into an old childhood bed, that comfort wasn’t rooted in nostalgia. The good feelings weren’t borrowed from memories and friendships long ago past. I wasn’t relying on my history to fill me up. Instead, the sheets felt smooth and soft, my husband felt strong and sure, and all those good feelings? All that love? It was all grew from the excitement, the joy I feel, for our present and our future.
And for that, thank you, Mom and Dad. For boxing up the past and allowing (forcing?) me to feel loved and secure in what’s to come.