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On Going Home. But Not Being 'At Home'

The Bloggess, or Jenny Lawson, the woman who once brushed up against me while we were getting on a bus and said, Oh, I know who you are, you're a great writer right after I stalkerishly introduced myself, happens to have a hilarious memoir called Let's Pretend This Never Happened. In it, there's a chapter about visiting her hometown after having moved to another city.

It was a well crafted chapter full of wisdom. It possessed a sad beauty and sense of longing that I found slightly boring in the most blaspehmous of ways. I guess, it's just that I couldn't relate. Having lived within the same forty five minute radius my entire life until recently, I never knew what it was like to go really away, make somewhere else your home and then come back to what used to be your home.

I'm not an idiot, I'm aware that this moving away and then coming back thing happens often. Like the way I know people wear crocs or buy tofu. You know these things happen, but unless you have to do it -- it's hard to wrap your mind around.

I Do Love Florida. But. Wait. There's More.

At this very minute, I'm at the home that used to be my home before I got married.

Surprisingly, I'm not very "at home" right now. I look around at the place I've always known and I see things I never really noticed before. Like, wow, Florida has a lot of palm trees. There's a serious love affair going on here between the citizenry and flip flops, too. Also, lizards. And palmetto bugs.

Plus, um, who do my parents think they are, having a whole life full of activities and people that have absolutely nothing to do with me or my brother?!

Florida, whether in the detailed or general sense, is kick ass. Powdery beaches. T-shirts that are considered "dressy clothes". Many of my deepest connections to the human species reside here whether through blood or love. No doubt, this state and the sandy town where I grew up is like a perfectly worn pair of jeans that have stretched in the right places but are also tight around other places which bypasses the torture of having to squeeze into Spanx that became too small for me one child ago.

Yet these jeans are sitting a little too high on my waist for me to feel completely presentable.

::Initiating dream sequence::

And what... the... are they... stone washed and tapered?

Um. Who put this braided leather belt from the Gap circa 1991in the belt loops?

Was it the same insane person that "pegged" the cuffs of these jeans, folded them over, put scrunchy socks and a pair of white keds on my feet? And then wrapped a flannel shirt around my waist? This is Florida, why do we even HAVE flannel here?!

Suddenly, these jeans don't feel so comfortable.

I feel the pressing need to get them off of me. I do need comfortable jeans, though. But these just aren't the right ones any more.

Is there another pair around here, just as comfortable... just as worn and fitted in the right places?

::End dream sequence::

Never to be Duplicated

When my parents talked about their lives in Pakistan and India when I was a small child, it was no different than fairy tales for me. The fantastical nature of these conversations was less about seemingly exotic places and more rooted in the idea that my parents were once very small just like me.

In my teenaged years, the stories became repetitive and my adolescent brain interpreted them as being rife with self righteousness. Maybe it was an attempt to transmit cultural memory on their part, but something about their stories in those years echoed Polonious' "To thine own self be true" rant to his son. Which, by the way, everyone who quotes that line should know that I'm 99% sure Shakespeare was trying to illustrate that Polonius was sort of stupid and not very wise. So. You know. Consider not quoting it any more.

Anyway, into my twenties, I heard those stories in a new way. I dissected them for clues from the past that explained who my parents were and why they did what they did now. With the wonder of my childhood and the defenses of my adolescence stripped away, I developed a compassion for my parents' carefully concealed emotional frailty, and, best of all, the humanity embedded within the tales and the people who told them. 

Now, I'm in my dear-God-seriously(?!) late 30s still listening to the stories and feeling sympathetic for people who are unable to let go of the then and embrace the now. The stories began as entertainment in my mind and then evolved into near manic efforts to remind me of "where I cam from." Thankfully, they became successful attempts at connecting with me on an emotionally mature level.

But they now seem like crutches for people who find the past far more interesting and satisfying than the moments (and people) that currently present themselves, and I'm not going to lie -- that hurts my feelings a little.

My nature is to cast the past off gently with a light kiss so it can be on its way. But here moments in the past can sing siren songs about a time of highly individualistic freedom, careless words and hours in front of the mirror perfecting various "eye make up concepts". But the songs of the past are tricks aimed at lulling the disquiet that accompanies addressing the reality around at us at this moment. The company I kept so long ago has gone on its way, the air has changed, the sky is different and... seriously, there are way more palmetto bugs.

I fully embraced and lived those moments and the idea of somehow trying to recreate those feelings or that person feels all wrong -- not in the ethical sense like ketchup on prime rib, but more so in the mayonnaise with French fries sense.

I'm learning to breathe the new air in this old place and to look up at the new sky in this hometown and quietly say, "Hi, we used to know each other really well a long time ago... what you were will always be important to me, but I'm ready for us to know each other for who we are."

It's been awkward, so that's why I've been quiet as I tend to not share thoughts until I know exactly what I'm feeling. Headed for home on Saturday. Looking forward to the resuming the 'now.'

What is it like for you when you go home? Do you just pick up where you left off or is it awkward?

photo credit: kevin dooley via photo pin cc

Reader Comments (17)

It's very awkward. I stay at hotels.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy

I always feel awkward. When my mother was dying, I stayed in her home alone. I'd never lived there but I had lived with all the things that were in the house - the beds and linens, the dishes, the pictures...her ghost. It was a surreal experience and it brought up all kinds of stuff that I didn't want to deal with. Going home...weird stuff.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVikki

I haven't been home in 7 years. 7 years? it feels strange to type that. I'm going home for my best friend's wedding in four months and I'm dreading it. I love home, and I don't want it to be any different there than when I left. Or wait, maybe I don't want to be any different than when I left. But I am different, and in ways I'm not sure I'm ready to accept yet. Thanks for articulating it so that I could know what I was feeling, too.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate

I went away to college and then law school. College wasn't so bad as I was only hundreds of miles away but law school was thousands of miles away. And I was older. I'd come home and there would be some new housing development. My friends would laugh over things that I just didn't get because I had not been around. When I left school, I ended up back in the area in which I grew up. But I was a stranger in a strange land. After building a life in all these other places, I returned home and had to rebuild once more. I have become an amalgam of all the places in which I have lived.

Oh and here's a fun twist. When I went to law school? Yeah, I returned to my mother's home. So her stories stopped being just stories; in part they became mine as well as I got to live a part of her experiences. When her mom died three years ago, we traveled back there. I allowed my mom to tag along with me on a day's outing while I said goodbye to a place that can still feel like home for me as well in my heart.

These two places make me catch my breath as the plane descends. I know that I could travel the world and always return to either of these places and feel like I was home.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKailyn

I can't believe it only took you one trip home to be all cool with it like that.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Britt

I can't believe you were here and didn't call me. AND it was my birthday. what the what???

I've always had a hard time figuring out where my hometown was. I lived on Long Island, NY where I was born until I was 12, then moved to the panhandle of Florida where I went through the torturous middle school and high school years, and then came here to Orlando where my adult life began.

Each of those stages are so incredibly different that I often find myself flustered when people ask where I'm from. Along with stages of development, the culture of those places are also all very different from each other. They saying "home is where the heart is" doesn't really apply because of all my family that still live in all of those places, I feel as though my heart is split into 3 pieces. Perhaps I am just lucky to feel like I have 3 homes, because I love all 3 for everything they are and everything that makes them different.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHockeymandad

I have yet to leave, but there are places I haven't wandered to in a long time, and I when I go back to look, they are smaller somehow and leave me with a longing that it is almost physically painful. It's not that I am not happy in my present, it's that the stories created there are part of who I am. They are that girl who had the world at her feet and everything in front of her and so many possibilities. And yet everything is still in front of me and there are so many possibilities; there is much behind me now.

I welcome the opportunity to leave this place and then return to see how it fits.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I think mayo and fries are classy. It is strange even for me to come back here even though I was 19 when I first got here. It is interesting to watch you point out places that you visited when you were growing up here and experience them through your eyes.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTariq

We moved a lot when I was a kid. I had no roots until now. So while I sympathize with your feelings, I have no frame of reference to go by when it comes to this.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Sugarpants

I have moved A LOT, both as a kid and an adult. Reno is the closest to home I have I guess, and I always keep coming back here. It feels comfortable, like those old jeans. Sometimes I want new jeans, though.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I never really left home. Well I went away for college but my home was always DC Suburbs even in school. I live about 2 miles from the house I grew up in. The weirdest thing for me is when I jog by my parents old house, seeing "wrong" cars or people in the driveway.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCorey Feldman

Last time we were back on the east coast, my husband kept complaining about how much stuff had changed since we left. I just kept looking around and going, Holy crap, there's a whole lake full of water RIGHT THERE and no one is using it. Living in Vegas will make you be awed by a rain puddle.

Ooh, look, you won another one of those blogging awards that the bank won't accept as collateral against your new mansion. Sorry about that. You can steal the image from here:

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergolfwidow

I always feel right at home, back home. But that thing about parents developing whole other lives that have nothing to do w/ us "kids," always takes me aback. Every time. Because I guess I just always picture them sitting around waiting for us to come home & bring them alive again. Not too narcissistic, right?

July 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSylver Blaque

I tagged you in a meme (sorry)

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCorey Feldman

pittsburgh is and hopefully always will be home. i can't ever imagine not feeling perfectly comfortable here.
but i am wildly happy for you to be at home in memphis now.

July 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhello haha narf

I define home places where I've lived, still visit and still resonates in me. I'm born in Canada and have been here but have lived 3 different provinces: Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. The first 2 still resonate with me. The latter does not yet and has taken time. (Sigh. It's just place where I work for awhile. Who knows.)

While relations and visits with parents may not be perfect, we don't choose parents. They still welcome me home: it is a sign of home.

But most certainly I'm Canadian in spirit and soul.

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJean

Hey Faiqa,
Not sure why but you were in my thoughts this morning so I thought I would check up on you. Read this a while ago, and I thought I wrote something here but maybe I just wrote it in my head then got shy instead.
I know exactly what you mean, we went "home" to Springfield this summer, and had long conversations with each other on how everything was so different but the same, how everything but nothing fit, how the streets were the same but we were different people and how incredibly comforting it was to be able to acknowledge it and in some sense embrace and appreciate our new culture and new life even more. It was a good trip, soaking in the familiar smells and hanging out with some of our favorite people, but by the end, we were somewhat homesick. It sounds crazy but I needed that.

Also, knock knock motherfucker! :) My goal was to pick up 3 "blogger" books (matt logelin and kelly hampton were the other two) when I was back in the States and the Bloggess's one was the first one I chose to read and did it all in one session! :) It is so butt shit crazy it's awesome.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterracheal

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