In Search Of Home // Kinfolk Magazine Volume 5

As I write this we are, for the moment, homeless. It is probably more accurate to say that we are “houseless” or “between homes.” In a few weeks we are moving from the US to Denmark, but for now we are in transition: travelers on the open road. We have already shipped away the contents of our first house, and we know we have closed a chapter that can never be reopened. You only get one first house as husband and wife; ours was old and painted green and full of beginnings. But now we are forging ahead, together, into an entirely new chapter.

Before we make the big move across the Atlantic, we are visiting some of the towns where we used to live—a farewell tour of sorts. We are spending time with family and friends, seeing the houses we remember, and visiting favorite haunts from our past. We are time travelers, stopping momentarily into each other’s childhoods, alight with fond memories and old stories: This is the house where we lived...Katie was so tiny back then...I learned to swim in that river, but it was bigger then, I think. On the miles of open road between our destinations we are finding ourselves revisiting a million memories of the past and present, and talking about the future of what it means to be home.

Home. It’s a loaded word with a menagerie of meanings—commercialized, politicized, and romanticized. Few other ideas inspire such diverse emotions, such varied understandings, or such personal interpretations as the word “home.” Perhaps only the words “love” and “God” come close in their complexity, and for the same reason: they represent ideas that are too big for words. Somehow “home” is broad enough to be a city and narrow enough to be two bedrooms and a bath. For some, home represents the utopia of a happy childhood, a time and place of safety and nostalgia, a place they might return to if they could. For others, home is the reality of a dark past, an inverted nightmare, something to continue running from. But for all of us, home is multi-dimensional—it is many things.

We all have, of course, the place we now dwell and work and commune—our own friends and geography. This is often different from the place that we came from: our parents and their houses, the high schools we spilled out of, and the towns that helped raise us. For those of us who now live away from our hometowns, or the places our parents or families live, we exist in a kind of perpetual duality, building new lives in new places but also tethered to something old and familiar and rich with history. This duality, complicated by distance, can create a tangible tension between the love of two homes—the one from which we came and the one we are trying to make. This tension is a cocktail of love, reminiscence, regrets, affection, aspiration, fear, and pride. We have always longed for our liberty, and because of that, we often undervalue where we come from. But this is “growing up” or “making our way in the world,” this weaving together of old and new, this keeping the best of what made us who we are and, yet, making something of our own.

As we’ve trekked through the cities and states of our farewell tour, I am continually reminded that home is the result of intersecting lives. It is the secondary color created by individuals in relationships. When we speak of our hometowns, what we really mean is, “The place where my sisters and I grew up,” or “The place I met my first best friend,” or “The place where my kids were born.” Yes, home is the landscape of people, places, and things upon which we live out life—but it is mostly about the people. That is why home can be a suburban neighborhood, or a struggling farm, or a ship at sea, or a war-torn nation. After all, home is where hearts are.

Earlier this month, when we packed up all our things, the whole of our combined worldly possessions could be measured in thirteen curated boxes of life: boxes of the things we’ve bought or found or made together over the past few years. By themselves, they are not a home, but these few things are a part of us, so they get to tag along. And we, like our boxes, are time capsules being reassigned to life on a new continent, in a new city, in a new neighborhood, and eventually in a new house. There, across an ocean, within the walls and under the roof of some yet-to-be discovered abode, we will reside; we will gather with friends as well as retreat from the noise of the world. Over time we will laugh and share and struggle and whisper that future house into something that breathes—something alive.

We are sure that we appreciate the art of “making home” only because our individual families before us did it so well—though incredibly differently—and because they gave us the raw material for the home we are making together. From those people, places, and things that raised us we learned to keep the best of what we were given and craft it into something brand new. And so, for the next while, our home goes to Scandinavia: man, wife, belongings, and the belief that home exists wherever it is that we are together.

Reprinted with kind permission of Kinfolk Magazine.