Home Is Where

El Paso: Land of terrible preconceived notions and ugly first impressions.

So close that one push pin denotes both cities.

El Paso: A place that grows on you.

El Paso: land that I love.

I was driving home after my weekly run with Wear Blue last Saturday (followed by brunch with my girl, Julie), and I had a goofy smile on my face. The drive back to my house was routine and familiar. The mountains to the west stood tall along my route. The sky was a cloudless blue. I thought, “I am home.”

Home is a funny concept when you are regularly uprooted.

When I was ten and had just moved to Texas, I thought longingly of Michigan as home. It had been where I first had close friends. That’s where my grandparents live, where my parents fell in love. It’s where every kid takes a field trip to an apple orchard and you get enough snow in the winter to make forts that you can climb inside.

When my parents dropped me off at college in Lubbock, a six-hour drive from our house on Hillview Drive, I cried. That had been my home longer than I had lived in any other one place. (The record still stands.) Visiting during summer vacations I realized that I felt itchy there. The place was the same, but I had changed. Home was changing, and after my parents got divorced, the house’s giant reputation in my mind crumbled. There was a time that those thoughts made me feel sad. Not any more. I’ve driven by it every so often. A new family lives there now, and it’s their home.

Was college my home? My five years spent in Allen? The measly (and miserable) eight months that I was in Germany? or is it El Paso?

I claim it all.

I love that for some people home is one place, one set of bricks, the bedroom that still smells the same as the day you left. That’s how many grandmother’s house is in Flat Rock. Even after years away, hearing the bang of the back door or the creak of the basement steps reminds me of years of Christmases, inside jokes, and family memories. I envy people who can find all that in once place.

But I also love that my memories and inside jokes and Christmases are scattered far and wide. My big brother taught me to swim at a hotel in the middle of a cross-country move. Years later, I taught our little brother how to swim in the backyard pool of our Dallas home. I watched the OJ car chase at a hotel in Tennessee. I admitted my darkest secret on a lumpy dorm room bed in West Texas. My husband slept through the announcement of a new Pope on our couch in Germany. I’ve spent holidays on every coast of this great country. As cheesy as it sounds, home is where my mom cooks my favorite meal, where my dog greets me with a wag of his tail, where my husband leaves his clothes all over the floor.

I’ve learned to make a home for myself wherever I go. To find it in people who I love, activities that I enjoy, and memories that I create.

(Thank you to Andria for the idea for this post!)

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14 thoughts on “Home Is Where

  1. I really enjoyed this post, Amy. I don’t have a “home.” When people ask where home is, which is an inevitable question because in this military life no one is close to home, I say, ‘well, my parents live in Florida and that’s the last place I lived before I got married, so yeah, Florida is home. Um, yeah. Florida.”

    We just make where ever we currently live “home.” You know, Home is Where the Army Sends you…… It usually takes a year or so for us to feel like our current duty station is “home” but it happens eventually.

    I love the idea of living in one house for all of your childhood and having gigantic family holiday parties at every holiday, not just when you happen to be visiting. I kind of mourn for the lack of those things in my life, but, well, what can you do? I don’t like my family much, anyway. Ha ha.

    • When I get the, “where are you from?” I respond with, “I’m originally from the Dallas area.” Of course, for me, “originally” wasn’t really that long ago. I might feel weird saying it when we get 5 or 10 years away from having lived there. I guess then I’d say, “I just moved from…” and say my previous place? But I’m really not sure!

      I don’t feel too sad that I don’t have that one forever home, but mostly because it’s so hard for me to realistically imagine. And it seems kind of stifling. My mom has tons of siblings and grew up in a small town, so everyone always knew her (and the rest of the brood) as “oh, you’re so-and-so’s sister.” I can’t even fathom that, but I don’t feel like I missed out on anything not having it in my life.

  2. Aw this is sweet! What do you think it is about a place or feeling or event that makes it click for you?

    My Mom, cats, and bed make a place feel like home to me. But it’s so much more than that and I’ve felt in limbo for the last ten years. That’s pretty sad. Give me your secrets!

    • I think finding something that feels like it’s mine helps. In Germany, for instance, I didn’t have any friends that were just mine. (They were spouses of Stephen’s friends.) I had no job, no clubs, nothing. Even though I had a lot of free time, it was mostly only filled with running, blogging, and reading. Nothing there was mine. That’s probably part of the reason I struggled so much. In EP, I have my job, my friends, my classes at the gym, my parking spots. Ya know? Mine!

      I also think (for me) proximity to my family is a big one. I’m close enough to visit on occasion but far enough away that I have to plant my own roots. Too close, and I won’t branch out. Too far, and I just feel sad. This distance is the perfect middle ground. If you’re not feeling settled (and you want to), I’d challenge you to think about what you could do to create that feeling for yourself.

  3. After my last two visits, I’ve been promoting Bliss/El Paso as not a total shit place to live if it makes you feel any better :)

    I totally agree though, as a native Texan, before I moved, I always thought Texas was the one and only home. But I’ve found with a little effort, you can totally make anywhere you live “home”. Plus, it just makes Army life a little bit easier that way.

    • Yes! Army life is sooooo much easier if you just accept that you will live in places you didn’t pick and you may not love, but you are going there anyway. Bloom where you’re planted, as they say. I totally get that not every location is a great fit (that was Germany for me), but you have to find a way to make the best of it. Otherwise you’ll be 100% miserable.

      I’m betting you’ll be very happy in Benning and wherever else you end up heading next!

  4. Before we moved to El Paso we were told that this place was horrible and that we would not enjoy it. They couldn’t have been more wrong. We absolutely love it here and have enjoyed our time. While it may not be an ideal place for most we embraced it.

    • Yes, everyone has this negative negative negative view of EP, which is just so not how it is. I wouldn’t retire here, but I’m happy to live here for as long as the Army sees fit. Who knows, the next place might not have beautiful mountains or kickass Mexican food. I have to get my fill of those things (and more) while I can!

  5. I love this post! Even though your Dad wasn’t military, we moved a LOT during our marriage (as you well know). It was always hard to pack up and leave a place that had become ‘home’ to me, but I learned that I would make friends and memories wherever we were headed. One of the biggest benefits is that I ended up having friends all over the country, and with things like facebook I can keep up with them, even when we haven’t seen each other for years.

    I still claim Michigan as the place I’m from, and probably always will, but I have fond memories of lots of other places that I’ve lived.

    P.S. You learned to swim in Barstow, California.

  6. I love your take on this subject, and I appreciate your good attitude! A positive outlook really is what it takes to make it work. I am finding that 9.5 years in, I am losing some steam for all the moving around. Maybe it’s also that I have a daughter who’s just a few years off from middle school. I don’t know. But I need to find some way of looking at it (if we stay in) that will get me through. I’ve put myself on a moratorium from discussing it with my husband until he gets home, because I don’t want to start a fight!

  7. Whenever someone asks me where I am from I have similar thoughts. Every place I have lived have had an impact on me in some way. They have a piece of my heart because of that. Love this post!

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