Being a minister’s kid means that my family has lived all over. In my life time, we lived in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. The place I have always considered to be my childhood home was our house in Darrtown, Ohio. I spent six years there between ages 5 to 11. That’s the house where I learned how to read and discovered all my favorite childhood movies and books. That’s the house where I played imaginary games and got my first bike. That’s the house where I made most of my memories of my mom and it’s where she died. Moving out of the house was slow and so there was never really a time when I made a point of saying goodbye. The house I knew and loved just sort of slipped out of my life until it finally got sold and other people got to fill it with memories. We called that house Hopehaven and I will probably always regret that I didn’t get to say goodbye to it.
After leaving Ohio, I moved in with my sister in Bryn Athyn and have called it my home for the past ten years. But even in that little town I have lived in four different houses during that time. Since my freshman year of high school I have lived with my sister Tirah in a house technically in Huntingdon Valley but within half a mile of Bryn Athyn. But, despite it being my physical home, I was always subconsciously careful to keep it emotionally distant. Instead of inviting friends to my house I would invite them to my sister’s house. Somehow I was both living with my sister and just staying with my sister. It was almost like I had to think of it as temporary for the sake of my emotions.Since starting college and moving into the housing on campus, my life has become rather nomadic. During the school year, of course, I live in a dormitory, but as of the end of last summer I do not have a single place to call ‘home’. My niece has moved into my old room in my sister’s house and staying at my sister’s house now means sleeping on a couch or air mattress. I wasn’t bothered by this shift. I knew how nice it was to have your own room and was glad for my niece (who was just starting high school) to get that extra privacy. I thought nothing of it, until my niece began begging me to go through the things that I had left in the closet. As soon as she asked me to clear my stuff out of the closet I immediately felt angry and defensive. I thought: “It’s not as if you need all that space. It’s only two boxes. I don’t know what’s in there. Who cares if you have a little less space!”
I was shocked and slightly embarrassed by those thoughts. Was I really faulting my niece for wanting the full capacity of her new space? If it really was only two boxes what was the trouble of just going and grabbing them? With some thought and some tears it became clear to me that it wasn’t about the closet or even the room. If I went through those boxes and moved them out, I was forfeiting any right I had left to call that place my home. Apparently all my careful phrasing and emotional distance hadn’t worked. I am still attached to that house and to that home. But it is still my sister’s home for her family. As much as I am a part of that, this was a pretty clear signal that it’s time for me to move on.
Since being a kid, I have always liked the idea of having a “hometown”. Somewhere that is not here that I can travel back to on holidays. A family and childhood home where everyone congregates for big occasions. Until the past few years I have always cited Darrtown as my hometown, until I realized that I have lived longer in Bryn Athyn than I have in that little Ohio town. As sad as it would make my 5 year old self, Darrtown isn’t my hometown anymore and in some ways I don’t have one at all. But I still have lots of homes.
I am lucky enough to have family all over the country and even out of it, any of which would love to have me stay with them for a summer or even longer. At least two of my siblings have said, “You could move in with me and find a college nearby!” It’s nice to feel that I’ll always have a home waiting for me no matter where I end up, even if I’m happy where I am for now. What’s even nicer though, is the thought that in not too long (fingers crossed) I will have the opportunity to make my own home. After this nomadic stage of my life, I can have the chance to pick a spot and grow roots and give my own family the opportunity to have a “hometown” that they can come back to for holidays.