Being at home in the world

Growing up, I had no home. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t homeless. But I never had a “home town,” a sense of belonging anywhere in particular. As an Army brat. I learned early on that home was wherever I might be at the moment, and that my address was apt to change at a moment’s notice.

“. . . at a moment’s notice.” That’s a bit of an exaggeration, and I realize I was luckier than some. I was uprooted far less than many of my early friends. Nevertheless, throughout my life I have invariably stammered and stumbled a bit when someone asks where I am from. It wasn’t until sixth grade that I completed an entire year at the same school. I found it hard to introduce myself to new classmates and neighbors, but I finally mastered an answer to the first question — “Where are you from?” I either named the state of my birth without further comment, or I opted to claim the last state I had lived in.

Even though I was fortunate enough to spend six years in Seattle, from sixth grade through my senior year of high school, my time there was spent at three different addresses. It seems somewhat surreal now, looking back over the span of years.

If there has been one constant in my life, it has been moving. Until relatively recently, actually in 2019, I had not lived at a single address for as long as five years. That milestone passed and stretched on to a sixth anniversary. And then, shortly after, my husband and I moved once again across a state line and into a new-to-us home in an established community.

It feels right, somehow, this new address. Now, after two years here, we feel truly at home.  I have no intention of moving on. I know that may change but, for now, I am content, and I no longer hesitate when asked where I am from. I am from right here! I have come home, and I plan to stay.

That in no way means I don’t want to travel. In fact, the urge is stronger than ever, and as COVID fears are diminished, I know my husband and I will take to the roadways, the airways and the seas as often as we can.

Ask any military kid where home is, and you’re likely to be greeted either with a blank stare, or a quick laugh before launching into an explanation of where s(he) was born and where she started school, the city where he learned to drive or first kissed, and other similar trivia. Military kids mark time by events and places, or through shared experiences independent of time. That doesn’t mean we don’t make good friends. Those friendships simply are, more often than not, among those who truly understand the concept that “home” is anywhere you unpack for longer than a week.

Those of us who loved the life thought it was entirely normal rather than disruptive. Yes, we collected plenty of stuff to assure that our memories of other places and other times were kept alive. Much of my stuff has traveled with me through the years, only to remain packed away in trunks and footlockers for decades. I regret not having “grandma’s attic” somewhere, where it all might have remained, safe and undisturbed, for decades. Some of my stuff has disappeared along the way. But the memories remain.

Now, after all these years, I am determined to rid my life of all that stuff. It’s difficult, because with every box that I tote up from the basement, or bring home from an overflowing storage unit, a small piece of my former life threatens to unravel. I’m having trouble making sense of it all, and I view everything with different eyes.

Sometimes an old photograph prompts giggles, sometimes grimaces. I snort in disbelief on occasion, sinking deep into half-forgotten memories from my childhood, and reliving what I recall fondly as some of the best of times.

The good times are far more vivid than any other experiences of those growing-up years. I seldom was lonely. My early life (actually my entire life) seems an unending adventure story. Perhaps that is why I pack a bag and board a plane, book a cruise or plan a road trip so readily. It was a habit formed through necessity at an early age, and I still embrace it.

I have to laugh now, every time someone asks where I’m from. I no longer pause or stammer with an answer, but I sometimes have to turn to my husband and wink. When we launch into the explanation of how we met and where we’ve lived, our listeners think we’re “spinning a yarn,” pulling their legs with a well-rehearsed fictional story. Not so, folks — It’s all true. Truth, as is said, is often stranger than fiction.

We recently returned from an extended trip three years in the making — a cruise to the Norwegian fjords and the Arctic Circle. We had postponed the journey twice and rescheduled out of necessity due to COVID. It was a memorable experience, but it’s good to be home.

It feels right, and we look forward to being right here, at home, for the foreseeable future.

About Adrienne Cohen

For more than a decade, Adrienne has been a freelance writer specializing in travel, food and drink, small business, urban agriculture, entrepreneurship, home design and decor, construction and real estate topics. Her bylined work has been featured in numerous print and online publications in this country and internationally. Read and follow her at goodfoodandfarawayplaces.com, or follow her here to get her thoughts on current events, modern life and the complexities of living in a fast-changing world.
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