Home can be more than one place. At least it is for me. Such a warm feeling for Gabby Giffords who’s home in Tucson for the weekend, the first time since being shot in the head on Jan. 8, nearly dead. Gabby’s sure that Tucson is home; her roots are deep. I’m happy for her. It’s good to know she’s here.
In the movie “High Fidelity,” John Cusak can’t stop pining about an old girlfriend. “She feels like home,” he says. I never forget that line because it seems so right. Home is where you belong. You feel it so intently there’s no mistake.
I used to feel that New England was home. After I worked in the 1972 McGovern campaign in Montana, I could have stayed there and taught. “Nope, I definitely feel my New England roots calling me home,” I said. No way would I leave Maine. I used to be a commercial for Mount Desert Island.
No more, at least not in the winter. I’m not a westerner. I’ll always be a New Englander. I have a house on Mount Desert Island, in Southwest Harbor. But for eight years now, other people have lived in my house, slept in my bed, showered in my tub, strolled down my path to the ocean. I’m there for three weeks every summer. Does that still count as home?
I see my house more clearly now than when I lived there winter and summer, teaching and running my bookstore, my kids in high school when Ethan would wait for the bus in a t-shirt during snowstorms, there waiting when they returned from college every summer.
I walk into the kitchen and it looks familiar. I practiced tap routines on that wood floor. Placed yummy birthday cakes and homemade pies for women’s group potlucks on the pantry shelf. Slept in a sleeping bag in front of the living room fireplace one Christmas vacation during a horrendous ice storm with no heat. Made my way down the stairs on my tush with a cast on my broken ankle. Cuddled and read with my kids on the couch in winter, drinking hot tea and eating mint chocolate chip ice cream. And so much more.
Is 165 Seawall Road still home? There’s a gap when I return every summer. Intervening days aren’t mine, yet their remnants hover over the lilac bushes. Most of my days are spent in the desert, here in Tucson. But I have so much more history in Southwest Harbor. I belong there but it’s different now. When Brian at Sawyer’s Market says hi and asks me how I’m doing, it’s not as a year-rounder, someone who’s stuck it out. It’s only a polite question for a summer person. A label I never dreamed of donning. Who woulda thunk it?
So yes, I still feel comfortable in Southwest Harbor. I often say it’s where my kids and I grew up. But I belong in two places, which makes me not as attached to either, as say, a third-generation Tucsonan. Welcome home Gabby! Welcome home to me when I return to Southwest harbor in just two weeks.
As residents of barely 6 months, my husband and I had just spent a couple of hours discussing this very topic when Sheila’s blog popped up. Despite being here such a relatively short time, my husband feels ‘not at home,’ ‘as if I don’t belong here’ and coming from Boston (two more New Englandsers like Sheila) I understand that we really don’t belong here yet and the question is, will we ever? The politics and priorities are appalling, the education system is abysmal (and we see they will be spending some millions to upgrade the stadium at the UofA while continuing to raise tuition, cut programs and faculty) and faces and places are still unfamiliar. I don’t know exactly what it takes, or how long it takes, to settle in but I agree with Sheila, some part of our hearts will always feel like Boston is home base. Rita
Thanks for your comment Rita! Don’t you think it has something to do with your history, that you raised your kids in Boston? And as I like to say, “we grew up together on Mount Desert Island.” It’s probably even harder to adjust when you’re retired, don’t go to your workplace daily. Plus, if you’re like me, I’m impatient. Anyway, I understand. It sounds like you’re jumping right in though, going to classes/teaching a class. Coming from New England, it is hard to accept the lack of commitment to public education and the political craziness of the Arizona legislature. We New Englanders have to stick together!