So far, there are eighteen different residencies that I have called home. A combination of apartments and houses, each holds a cadre of memories and takes me back to a specific time in my life. I don’t know about you, but eighteen seems like a lot. It’s an average of a new place to call home every 2.5 years.
When I stay at a hotel on a business trip or writers conference, I very easily refer to the room as “home,” although there’s nothing about the sterile hotel environment that reminds me of the place I hang my metaphoric hat. I’ve been known to travel with stuffed companions who make my stay-away more familiar, but I’ve never gone so far as to rearrange a hotel room or even bother with the empty dresser drawers.
But the subject of home got me thinking. What is it that makes a home our home? Is it knowing your stuff will be there when you return? Is it the family or partners who will return to the same home or be there when you arrive? Is it simply having a place to go vs. literally being homeless?
I think there’s an inherent skill involved in writing fiction, and that is the ability to draw on scenes and settings to create a world through words. Mapquest can show you where something is and how to get there. Google Maps can tell you what that place looks like. Wikipedia can give you the background of a city, and Realtor.com can tell you the specifics of a house on a certain street.
But can a website tell you what it felt like to be two years old, descending worn gold carpeting on Christmas morning and seeing a pile of presents that Santa left?
Can a website tell you what it’s like to be seventeen and hear footsteps outside of your bedroom window in the middle of the night and know you’re too old to call out to your dad, but to need him to reassure you that it was only a deer?
Can a website describe what it feels like to start your life over in an unfamiliar apartment in an unfamiliar part of town, to hear someone cursing and breaking bottles in the parking lot under your new windows, to be so scared you sleep with the windows locked even though you have no air conditioning and the temperature outside is 89 degrees? And to know that even in these circumstances, you’re in a better environment than the one you left behind?
No. And that’s why, no matter where you stay, no matter where you live, there’s no place like home.