[Originally written October 1st, 2012]
My trip odometer reads 4,800 miles. The mile-clock started started counting up from zero on September 9th. Today is October 1st. In three weeks, I spent time in four distinct places I’ve called home. The first leg of the trip bridged my previous residence with the one I was about to leave. A couple thousand miles, two border crossings, and a night in the back of my car brought me from the Arrowhead of Minnesota to the Banana Belt of Vermont. My two years in Vermont were some of the most important in my life. I lived in the same house for 21 months. I signed a year-long lease. I became strong friends with people a handful of years older than I. I mastered science. In some ways, Vermont still feels like home. I speak in the “we” about what Vermonters do and feel offended when someone offers me “pancake syrup” made from corn. It will be a hard place to shake despite my certainty that it has taught me what it could.
I left Vermont to travel backward through time. I spent 24 hours in the greater Boston area, for a high school friend’s wedding. Driving south on I-93 brought back vivid memories of turning onto Storrow Drive and crossing the river to school. Since moving out of my parents’ house, I lived longest in Cambridge. The familiar brick walls of Harvard Yard and river houses will always welcome me warmly.
The odometer ticked up as a I traveled south, stopping overnight in Brooklyn and Manhattan. While I’ve never called that boroughed city home, the friends I met in the West Village played my family for three years. Aidin and Geoff, Julia and Jen, Nicole and Mary. Slipping back into the dynamic was like easing into a hot spring–uncomfortable if done so timidly, but ultimately relaxing and rejuvenating. I fed on the excitement of others seeing me–some by surprise–and hearing about my friends’ great successes. As Geoff put it, we all looked the best we have in a long time. It was not the afternoon sun that warmed those ancient Harvard bricks, but rather this family’s laughter. We will ignite the buildings around us for years to come.
From New York my car counted 226 miles to Home. I idly wonder when my parents’ house will stop being the reflexive “home” of my youth. I imagine it will happen when I no longer use it as my permanent address, my billing address for one of my credit cards, and the place I store half of my worldly possessions. This is a different type of home than the others–much more a home base than a home place. My parents have offered a staging ground for my many adventures, moves, and phase shifts. It is the true constant in my life, the place to which I can retreat if my more exciting, less permanent options fall through. I am grateful for this luxury, though I fear I take it too much for granted.
Today is the first in a new month and the first in a new home. I do not yet have an address at which I receive mail, nor a lease, nor a billing statement. I am past needing traditional means of proving residence. Instead, my heart felt home when I drove over the first pass in the Rocky Mountain foothills. I trace the same streets I walked in 2010 and look fondly at the mountains I climbed and skied. I moved to Bozeman because I am in love with the windswept ranches, the mountains rising above the plains, and the bare willow twigs yellow in the gray drab of February.
What is home, but a feeling of belonging? I have felt home before when integral to groups of friends and coworkers, so often the same people. The safe arms of those that I love, and those who love me, feel like home. But nowhere before have I felt home forever. I wonder if Bozeman–or some place like it–will begin to feel that way soon.