Anyone who has ever moved, gone away to college, or even traveled, knows that the sense of home is mutable. I used to believe that home was just a truth we all write for ourselves, sometimes based on fact, other times on fiction. That was until I spent three weeks driving around the United States to many of my former homes.
For three whole weeks, I saw rolling hills of forest, waves of grain, corn, and soy. Every day was full of familiar streets, faces and expressions. Yet somehow, it was not home. Despite often feeling completely alien as an immigrant in Germany, somewhere along the lines I had begun to think of Germany as home. This realization didn’t dawn on me, however, until I was driving through America’s achingly beautiful farmlands.
Surrounded by the vastness of the United States, I longed for the short walk to the grocery store in Germany. At a restaurant in some mid-Atlantic state, I found myself swimming in a sea of iPads, and wished for the bare walled simplicity of a good Bavarian beer hall. I longed for my apartment, my cat and my new friends, despite being surrounded by the things and people I had missed most in my months abroad.
It seems that home is not simply a story we each write, but, perhaps, that is the essence of its complex nature. Home certainly is the stories, faces and places we remember from our past, but it is also the place we live now. Home is both the place we go back to for holidays, and the place we leave when we go there. Perhaps the old saying “Home is where the heart is”, has more truth to it than it appears, for who doesn’t have bits of their heart strewn in various places? We all love people who have left us, people who live far away, and even people who no longer live at all. Bits of our hearts are left like breadcrumbs along our life’s journey. We’ve all dropped pieces of our hearts, ourselves, on every hearth where we’ve warmed our cold hands, in each hand we’ve held for comfort, over each vista that trapped a sigh in our chest. So then home is all of those places and faces as well. It was good to go home, and it is good to be back home again.