Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Home is where the heart is

On interview night, one of our book club questions took off somewhat from Jennifer's post about home. There's a lot of food for thought there. I can certainly see Jennifer's point, but I'm not sure I agree completely. It made a lot of sense to me when Zelda offered her insight, "Where I live now is a place that I learned. Where I grew up is the place that shaped me. That's my home."

In some ways, I think this is a discussion about language. What word are you going to describe the place you come from, the one that's part of who you are, the one you remember when other more recent memories have faded? If you don't call it home, what do you call it?

My mom grew up in Los Angeles, in a city I can barely imagine now. She remembers walking to school through groves of orange trees, picking fruit as she went. Even I can dimly remember visiting my grandparents when were young, stopping at roadside stands that have long since been paved over, buying fresh squeezed orange juice that was the best thing I had ever tasted. That agricultural valley is long gone, and I avoid LA as much as I can, because it's the only place where I have ever been stuck in what I would call rush-hour traffic if it wasn't ten o'clock at night. My mom, however, after getting married and moving to the East Coast to raise her family, never stopped yearning for California. Partly, she didn't like the East Coast. The winters were cold, the neighbors were stand-offish, her family hadn't lived there for generations so she never felt she belonged. So during the entire eighteen years or more she lived there, it was never home to her.

Ironically, I went to college in California and ended up staying, even though in my heart of hearts I always loved New England best. I detested the laid-back frivolity I saw among my college peers, I missed the snow and ice of winter and the incredible melting wonder of spring. For more years than I can remember, California was an alien place. So of course, I raised a family here. Two, actually. And now I've lived in California for more than half of my life, more years than my mom lived in New England, and I guess you could say I've acclimated. I actually like San Jose. I do feel this is my home now, although I'm not sure when that happened.

Maybe, like Humpty Dumpty, we expect words to mean what we want them to mean. Of course, that doesn't make communication with other people any easier.


Blogger Vivian said...

There is home and there is hometown. It's easier to define home, since it's smaller and more portable. Most people expect hometown to be where they were bred and raised, or in Chinese culture, where their ancestors were bred and raised. In the modern days people are transplants a few times over. It's nice to have a hometown to miss. Your heart belongs to something real, a time and a place, something solid that you can attach to.

4:35 PM  
Blogger zelda said...

I think Vivian makes a very nice distinction and I like her concept of home being portable while a hometown is more foundational

Home is your trailer and the trailer park is where yer from.

5:46 PM  

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