“Are you going home for Memorial Day?” a colleague asked me recently.
“Yes,” I said without a pause. I knew she was referring to Connecticut, where my kids and I moved from last summer.
“Oh, but home is here now. I’m sorry,” she replied, correcting herself.
We talked for a few more minutes — about a friend’s wedding I’d be attending, and other plans for the trip — but the concept of ‘home’ stuck in my head.
On a verbal level, I use the word ‘home’ frequently.
It’s the Maine house where I’m raising my kids. It’s my family’s home in Connecticut near the beach. It’s the memory of the house I grew up in, and the ghost of the others I’ve lived in. It’s the towns and cities where I spent my childhood and young adulthood.
It can be anywhere, as long as I am with the ones I love and adore.
So, what is home really? Is it something tangible like the house you grew up in? Is it a definitive place where you lay your head at night? Or is it a more abstract idea — like wherever your family is. Or, for that matter, any place where you curl up in the warmth of security, comfort and familiarity?
When we had that conversation in my office, I was certain that home — to me — is more abstract. I use the word so frequently, and in so many different ways, that it must be, right?
In Connecticut, at my parents house, I whipped up a pitcher of this Summer Sangria, packed with fruit and the promise of warm days to come. Together with a dear friend, we shared drinks and feasted on sausages and potato salad, while catching up on life. We laughed, as we always do, as silliness wove its way into the evening. My kids and I were home.
On Sunday, I attended the wedding in Brooklyn, sharing a special moment as one of my college friends became a newlywed in an intimate gathering of friends and family. Later, as I headed north to my parents house, I gazed at the brightly lit New York skyline while crossing the Triboro Bridge (actually, it’s now the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, but it will always be the Triboro to me), and it felt different. New York is among the places I’ve counted as home, and for years I thought I would call it home again. But this time, I admired the skyline, partially decked in red, white and blue for Memorial Day, without the same longing. Sure, I still love it, but it wasn’t calling to me anymore. Not in the same way.
After lazy mornings reading the paper in the backyard and walks on the beach, it was time to head north. We said our goodbyes — including a quiet one as we drove past the Long Island Sound shoreline one last time, as we always do. But this time it felt different for me. I wasn’t torn between a longing for that home, and a need to get to my own.
Three hours later when the curve of the Piscataqua River bridge came into view against the clear blue sky, it felt like a breath. That’s the halfway point of our drive back to Bangor, but there’s something about crossing that bridge.
Later, arriving in the Queen City, I texted a friend to say we’d made it back safely. “Welcome home,” read the response.
And that’s when it hit me: I really am home.
For the first time in years, I’m settled and at peace with where I am and what I’m doing. The loud demons of longing and restlessness have been quieted by creating a happy, active life for my kids and myself here in Maine.
Home. This is home.
Maybe home is both tangible and abstract. Maybe it’s something that’s many things all at once. And maybe, just maybe, home doesn’t have to be one place — but many. And that’s okay.
- 4 cups strawberries, divided
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 750-mL bottle pinot grigio, chilled
- 1 orange, ends removed and sliced
- 1 lime, ends removed and sliced
- ice, to taste (if desired)
- Combine 2 cups strawberries with the sugar in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a pitcher. Pour in the pinot grigio, and stir to combine.
- Quarter the remaining strawberries. Add to the pitcher along with the orange slices and lime slices. Stir well to combine.
- Add ice, if desired. Serve immediately.