Home Truths

Home, like my heartbeat or the North Star, is a singular noun with multiple powers. The word evokes a center of gravity and a directional force. Yet it pulls me off balance. Which home? The one I once had, now have, dream of? Each one, under its roof and within its walls, holds presences and absences, moving boxes left behind.

When I cannot sleep I conjure my ideal shelter; it’s meant to comfort me. But often I feel bound by my actual dwelling and long to escape it. The security I now have can feel like confinement.

Yet it is not the same trapped feeling I had as a child in the suburban house on Turkey Hill Road, where my parents’ disapprovals and disappointments tightened the air, and where, while I caught praise for using a vocabulary beyond my years, I lacked the words for the softness I craved. 

And it is not the same false feeling I had in my college rental on Stewart Avenue, where I made stifado for my Greek boyfriend, peeling dozens of white onions the size of blueberries so I could feel capable of kindling something warm between us. 

And it is not the same distressed feeling I had in the tiny cottage on Bobs Avenue when the man I chose to be my ally in a freer life received 3 AM phone calls – calls I answered, first humiliated, then infuriated, then driven to free myself.

I cannot blame that suburban house for failing to shelter me from parents who could not love enough. It was not the fault of the tiny cottage that we entered it hand in hand but had to leave it one at a time, stepping over our flattened promises on the way out. Still, I look to those residences as witnesses offering clues about what my home means to me.

Like hermit crabs, we slide into adopted shells and must shrug them off when they no longer fit. Once outside, we can look widely, stretch our limbs, fill our lungs. It is when I am out of doors that my best thoughts land in me. I carry them back, cupping fragments of language that say something genuine, my mind like hands cradling a bird’s egg. I carry them back to the place where I live, and can write about them, and make a story of home that actually shelters me because it is true.

Published In:

Oregon Humanities Magazine, Summer 2023