Monday, June 4, 2012

the question of Home

May 26, 2012 Saturday 5:33 pm Earlysville, VA

I am reading a fascinating opinion piece in the New York Times called, "Home Is Where They Let You Live", by Jasmin Darznik. What caught my eye is that it's written from Charlottesville, VA, where I'm currently staying. Small world.

It is the story of Jasmin, an Iranian-American woman, whose experience of finding a home has been close to impossible. The saddest section for me is, "I had quickly learned not to be Iranian in ways that showed. I plucked my eyebrows, bleached my hair with Sun-In and hitched up my skirts. My accent was pure Valley girl, heavy on the 'likes'. By summer's end, I was desperate to get back to California. A visa was the only thing standing between me and the only country I cared to claim."

Here is another small passage that struck me : "Each year many thousands of children are brought to America by their parents. They come before they have any concept of citizenship, much less of belonging. Like me, they will draw their notions of 'home' not only from what is familiar and desirable but also from what is permitted and denied them."

For me personally, this passage hits home. I have always struggled with the concept of identity, and where exactly "home" is to me. Obviously, from this story, mine is a minor tale of displacement. I'm blessed to call America home- America as a whole. I'm "from" here- physically. Documents exist in my name. I was issued a birth certificate documenting my born-and-bred-American identity. I have a social security card. I am a number, and I also have several numbers attached to my every form of identification. A passport. A driver's license. Two of which display photographs of me, with my given name. I am identifiable. Legally.

Yet why do I identify with the nameless, the faceless, and the homeless? Why do articles subtitled, "No Place is Home", strike deep identity chords within? Why do I relate more to foreigners, immigrants, refugees and tourists, over my own "people"?

I am of a certain WASPy pedigree, to these. (Though would never realistically be identified as a WASP itself.)
I have a high school diploma from a swanky private school in Florida. Never felt to belong there. I have a Bachelor's degree from a respected northern university. I may look pretty good on paper. My daily reality is one large sociological question mark preceded by the unending ellipsis.

I updated my Facebook status 2 days ago with, "Just because I've chosen not to have children at this stage of my life has not made me a selfish person. I haven't "missed out" on anything. I have a full, happy life and I'll make my own choices based on what I want to do and when, not when society thinks I should. And that old adage about the biological clock ticking? I just put that baby on snooze. Bam."

I got lots of feedback in the form of 14 likes (at last glance) and close to 40 comments, several of which being my personal responses. My favorite comment was from my high school junior year English teacher. She wrote, "As a long term married couple with no kids and no longer a possibility I have to say it isn't something I feel as a loss. [Her husband, also an English teacher my senior year] and I have been better teachers for students who needed the extra attention. Family is more than biological. We were badgered for years about the kid question!"

The line I appreciate most is, "Family is more than biological." I've always felt this way. I come from a broken household. When my parents divorced, my family unit changed. I adopted myself into a great man's protective arms and life out in California, thousands of miles from what I knew as "home". "Home" for me has been an ever-evolving "place" within. Physically, home is Pennsylvania, Georgia, California, Okinawa, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Maryland and, most recently, Washington, DC. I've left fragments of myself every place I've lived. When I meet a Floridian, I feel bonded to them in the same way as when I meet someone from Japan. In the same way, I feel individuals represent aspects of what defines "home" for me. I'm home when I'm with my boyfriend in DC or in Virginia with my family the same way I'm home when Skyping or talking on the phone with my younger sister.

I'm home during the summers in Maine, with my "family" that's both biological and serendipitously chosen.

Home is physical, emotional, psychological, physiological, spiritual.

Home is a place, a mood, a thought, a frame of mind, an individual.

Home is a destination. Home is love. And home is a figment of the imagination.

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