Songwriters, poets, and sentimentalists the world over ponticificate like crazy on the concept of "home"... but do they ever actually define it?
Amanda Louise Miller, temporarily "homeless" philosopher
I’ve been hypersensitive to it lately: that weird/sweet/awkward moment when I first catch myself calling a new place “home.”
“I’ll meet you at home,” I say. When what I really mean is “I’ll meet you at the hotel where we’re sleeping tonight,” or “I’ll meet you at your apartment (where I’ve been crashing this week)."
As someone who’s been living out of a suitcase for the past month, you could say I’ve been thinking about the definition of “home” A LOT.
- Is “home” my college apartment in Oklahoma City? (According to my GPS, it is!)
- How about my parents’ house, where, in real Kerrigan and Lowdermilk fashion, I just “officially” moved? (for insurance purposes, and only while I'm in grad school, I swear!)
(that awkward moment when you find your life turning into a Generation XY cliche, set to music)
- Is Omaha, the city where I left behind most of my friends when I started grad school in OKC last year, my "homaha"?
(a real hat you can buy online)
- Or maybe, my true home is really located somewhere with Jezebel (my messy red Ford Focus) on highway 81 or 35 or 275, somewhere mathematically equidistant from all of these places?
The more I think about it, the more “home” becomes one of those words that slowly and inexplicably loses meaning the more times you repeat it. Home, home, home, home….
Fun fact: apparently this phenomenon is called "semantic satiation." Check it out on Wikipedia HERE.
(Still my favorite "looking for home" song!)
But as much as I may love these musical "homescapes," none of them really defined “home” in a way that was concrete enough to satisfy my rational, albeit often outvoted, “order muppet” side.
For that, social media was surprisingly helpful. First, there was this blog post that’s been Facebook-shared like crazy by my Omaha friends this week. It's about Jane Fonda coming back to town for a Film Streams event (her father, Henry Fonda, got his start at the Omaha Community Playhouse) in which she waxes sentimental about her "wonderful and emotional" visit home.
(Jane Fonda had this image from the Omaha World Herald on her blog.)
Then there were the links shared by the OCU music department, bragging about what their most successful students and alums are up to over the summer, and the posts from Augustana (where I got my undergrad degree) about upcoming Homecoming activities.
All of this got me thinking about "home" in ways the songs in my iTunes rarely discuss -- in terms of time, labels, and other quasi-metaphysical factors. In the end, after the results were tallied, here is the best nutshell definition of ”home” Facebook and I can muster:
“Home” is like a combination of pornography, bra shopping, and chocolate:
- you know it when you see it, even though you can’t really define it
- once you find something that fits you perfectly, you should probably buy it in every color
- and too much is never enough!
Oh, and also this, which is not so much a pithy nutshell, but true nonetheless:
There are the homes you claim for yourself,
places where you've planted flags deep into the soil
like a moonwalker on a mission,
stating, now and forever, “these footprints are mine.
“The chemistry here matches my photosynthesis.
“See the placard with MY NAME in all caps.
“Here is where I pee on the wall.
“Here is where I want my scent to stay.”
Then, there are the homes that claim you.
Where they keep an eye on you,
prodigal or not,
even from miles/years away.
Like it or not, the pockmarks from the flags they've planted
into the dirt of your skin
will never fade entirely,
like a permanently-embedded and un-Fabreezable scent
forever to remind you of your dance teacher’s basement
or that boy’s neck.
Also, like it or not,
they will always keep track of you on Facebook,
and claim you
there are the homes you stumble into,
scouting binoculars put away for the night.
Blinking at the sudden change of light,
you’ll always be a little shocked to find this kind of place
that fits your contours,
quirks, and inconsistencies
like a custom-made polyurethane sleeve.
These are the homes where – for now, anyway-- you can stretch
and dance like a total freewheeling imbecile.
without being seen,
without needing to be seen,
without fear of not being seen.
These are the homes that fit.
Where you were probably always meant to be.
They sound beautiful,
(Oh, and if you happen to see one that looks a little asymmetrical,
with a deep, bulging middle section
for holding all sorts of demons and music and undeliberateness,
a little curled in on itself,
like a hand that has been squeezed into a fist
for too long…
Do me a favor, would you?
Push me towards it.
And don’t let me get scared.
Just say, “here’s your stop,”