Husband, the wee ones, and I spent yesterday at home. Our home. Home for the holiday. Here in the Midwest. 600 miles west of - and a cultural world away from - the Connecticut town where I grew up. It's taken me awhile to call this place that name: home. But yesterday, watching the parade, eating our nontraditional Thanksgiving fare, and sharing desserts with our friends and fellow transplants, it struck me that home isn't really about location; it's about place. The practical place. Where your stuff is. The emotional place. Where your people are. The existential place. Where you do your living. And we are here. This place is home. For now.
And I thought about a passage in American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld's account of a first lady who bears a more than passing resemblance to Laura Bush.
I read American Wife last fall, about a year into our Midwestern sojourn. Up to that point, I still felt like a stranger in this place. (I love that the word "extra" is in the Spanish word for stranger: extranjera. I felt just like that, an extra in somebody else's story.) I missed the quaintness, the charm of New England, the energy and variety of New York. I missed people, yes, but also the feeling of place that I had in those locations. The feeling of home. But Sittenfeld gave me an image of a Midwest to which I hadn't given full credit before. In the voice of narrator Alice Blackwell, Sittenfeld writes
Then we were back in Wisconsin, a place that in late summer is thrillingly beautiful. When I was young, this was knowledge shared by everyone around me; as an adult, I've never stopped being surprised by how few of the people with whom I interact have any true sense of the states between Pennsylvania and Colorado...Admittedly, the area possesses a dowdiness I personally have always found comforting, but to think of Wisconsin specifically or the Midwest as a whole as anything other than beautiful is to ignore the extraordinary power of the land. The lushness of the grass and trees in August, the roll of the hills (far less of the Midwest is flat than outsiders seem to imagine), that rich smell of soil, the evening sunlight over a field of wheat, or the crickets chirping at dusk on a residential street: All of it, it has always made me feel at peace. There is room to breathe, there is a realness of place. The seasons are extreme, but they pass and return, pass and return, and the world seems far steadier than it does from the vantage point of a coastal city...It is quietly lovely, not preening with the need to have its attributes remarked on. It is the place I am calmest and most myself.Maybe it is merely an indication of the sway that books hold in my life, but reading Sittenfeld's words about the Midwest (no, we don't live in Wisconsin, but still...) helped me to look upon it in a more accepting way. I saw the power of the land, indeed, but also the power of the choice to live and grow and keep growing up in a place in such a way that that place becomes a home.
My brilliant and beloved friend H moved from a Northeastern city to her own set of cornfields right around the time that Husband and I relocated here. From her, I picked up a saying whose wisdom I have been hard pressed to follow up to this point: "Bloom where you're planted."
I will try, H. I will try to put down roots in this rich soil and make this house, this place, a home.
Where is home to you? Does it exist as a point on a map or is it a state of being?