It’s Poetry Tuesday (one day late due to a scheduling error)! We are going to go back through all my old notebooks and look at the god-awful poetry I wrote when I was an angsty teen and then you will get present day Michelle’s re-interpretation/headdesk horror-filled embarrassment.
There is only one word that can describe what I am feeling,
A place where you are always welcome,
No matter what you do you’re always met with open arms,
With an acceptance that makes you want to cry,
Nothing can replace this feeling,
Home is where the heart is,
I can surely agree with that,
Things are of no significance,
Only the people standing in front of you,
Love radiating from them,
Take away the house it doesn’t mean anything
For I have my home,
Awwww Baby Michelle could be sweet! This might have been like beginning of the poetry phase Michelle who was still a pure little cinnamon roll who needed to be protected from the world. *pats Baby Michelle’s head* Cute!
There is nothing that I am particularly embarrassed about with this poem, more just feeling philosophical about this word “home.” I remember when I was first learning French in high school we learned that there was no equivalent to “home” in French. You can say “Je vais à ma maison” which means “I go to my house” or you can say “Je vais chez moi” which is “I go to my place.” But there is no word word for home. Now that I am working to learn Portuguese I have found the same thing: Eu vou para casa. Casa means house or home, it means the building. In English there is the physical building and then home. We make this distinction.
When I was in undergrad was the first time the tension arose around what home meant. My dorm room wasn’t home, but going back to my childhood home wasn’t the same. My sister had warned me that this would happen because I was growing and changing as a person. Home was still where I grew up, but it wasn’t as comfortable was it was when I talked about it in the poem. Home was no longer completely where my family was because we were working through the transition of Baby Michelle to Adult Michelle. I didn’t know how to handle old boundaries and strictures and they didn’t know how to shift gears from controlling and guiding to stepping back and allowing me to be fully independent. That is why it was good that I was far enough away from home during school to get the distance, but that home was close enough that if there was an emergency someone could be there to support me.
But home was still the house where I grew up. It was walking into the dining room, kicking off my shoes and calling out. It was my bed in my room with my things. It was late nights at the kitchen table and watching NYPD Blue in the living room. It was calling home and hearing my parents’ voices and feeling safe.
The next shift in “home” came when I was home for a year and my parents were starting to drift apart. The house was no longer safe feeling, but it was so subtle it was hard to understand why home seemed elusive. Then at the end of the year I moved to NYC and home became both a place a longed to return to and my apartment. Home was a studio dorm room then a four bedroom apartment in Queens, then a two bedroom in Manhattan, then a studio in Manhattan, and is now a two bedroom in Brooklyn.
“Home ” was something I wished to return to with my forearms braced against the kitchen counter in my own apartment, while knowing that it wasn’t the house that I had grown up in, but having no other place, thing or person to attach the word to. “Home” evinced a feeling of saudade (Portuguese) – something that I longed to return to, that I missed and was nostalgic for, but something that didn’t necessarily exist any more and might never exist how I remembered it.
As my parents’ marriage dissolved, as my childhood home was divided up and my parents separated, home was torn in two and I didn’t know how to go about patching the fraying edges to make it into two or three homes that were all fulfilling and encased in the warm glow that home used to have. Home in NYC was plagued by roommate drama and support in dizzying turns. Home in CNY was an echoing house with locks that no longer fit my key and a mandate of “get your stuff out because who knows when it’s gonna be sold” grinding against a small, cozy apartment on a river filled with photographs of the good times and knickknacks. Home in DC was changing apartments and negotiating a confusing (for me) relationship with my soon-to-be brother in-law.
Home is stabilizing now. It is more people than place still. It is tentative and underlain with anxiety and fear. Home is a little more keys that turn in the wrong direction to unlock and a yelling cat. It’s hugs that completely envelope me and keep me safe. It’s redefining boundaries and making new family traditions. It is less and less standing at the kitchen sink longing and sick for something that can never be again, but might this time be better.