Where is home for you?
This is a question my mother-in-law asked me once, thinking perhaps that I would answer “Bemidji” where my grandparents had lived, where I spent my summers growing up, where my parents had retired.
But I did not answer, and had to think about that question.
I moved once a year from 2010 to 2014, pulling up my lightly rooted self, trying yet another location to see what might feel more like where I belonged.
I have lived in Neillsville, Wisconsin, Delavan (WI), Swarthmore (PA), Bemidji (MN), Mountain View (CA), San Francisco, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Roseville (MN), New Brighton (MN), Eden Prairie (MN). Now I live in White Bear Lake, where we moved three years ago when my now-husband was leaving Mankato, to join me in the Twin Cities. I lived in St. Paul at the time and we wanted to compromise on living in the city, or a more “small town” type of environment.
Our rented townhome adjoins a lovely wooded park area where we often see deer, turkeys, and some type of pre-historic sounding large bird which we have not yet conclusively identified.
It has been home to us for over 3 years now, and we comfortable here, but someday we would like to buy our own home, so that we do not have to answer to a homeowners association, and to have a bigger garage that my husband can use for a workshop.
Delavan felt like home to me from age 2 to age 18 when I lived there. My parents and sister and I lived in a two bedroom townhome apartment in this small town, in a safe neighborhood. But during the summers (my parents were teachers) we would go north to Bemidji, where my grandparents lived, and we spent time on the lake. So during my childhood, we was fortunate to have an escape from being close to our neighbors.
When I left for college, I wanted to spread my wings and get outside the Midwest, even though I almost chose Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. I’m a Wellstonian politically, and I had an affinity for Carleton after spending a summer there at a Writing Camp.
Fortunately I had enough financial aid to be able to go to Swarthmore College, and I loved the four years I was there. The final one I struggled with some depression, and I understand this is not so uncommon for college seniors about to embark on the “real world” and trying to figure out their true identity outside of being students. I had the help of a wonderful counselor in the student health center, who got me through changing my major, and some fairly big struggles with eating issues and identity questions.
When I left college I moved to the Bay Area of California for a while. I had read Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, and I had also spent a summer doing research at Stanford in Palo Alto, and I’d fallen in love with California. I truly enjoyed the two years I lived there, riding my bike everywhere, taking public transportation every where else and embarking on “grown up” work and life. I rented my first apartment (since I had lived in dorms in college) and met a man who would become my husband (for about 8 years, the remainder of my 20’s).
I had many friends who lived in the area as well, most of them who I knew from college, and we had many good times. I had worked in a lab at Stanford on the good graces of my research professor for a while, but without a graduate degree, work in the sciences did not seem like the most interesting option at the time. I had no trouble finding temp offices jobs (it was the 90’s). They were plentiful but not lucrative, so I found myself going into debt while trying to live well and keep up with the lifestyles of my friends, who were mostly techies, so had disposable income.
When my grandma got sick and had heart surgery in 1998 I decided that I had spent enough time away from the Midwest of my youth, so my husband and I opted to move to the Twin Cities. It is a 4-hour drive to Bemidji, close enough to family, but with a buffer of privacy which I always seem to crave.
After only two years of saving aggressively and living in a cheap, garden-level apartment we were able to wipe out our debt and buy our first home in Saint Paul. I fell in love with Saint Paul and got very involved with political campaigns there, where I met neighbors and made a lot of friends. I started graduate school because work bored me. Working toward a Master of Liberal Studies degree part-time while working full-time was a way to keep learning while paying the mortgage.
When my marriage broke up in 2005, I bought myself my own town home in Saint Paul, a cute little Spanish-style end unit in a 4-plex in Highland Park. I probably ought to have rented for a while instead of buying on the high side of the real estate boom. But I loved the place while I was there, and I relished being happily single again.
So back to the question (asked in 2016): Where is home for you?
I had only one answer. Home is where my fiance (at the time) and kitties are. I have lived so many places and had the luxury of traveling and visiting many countries in my life. I will say that I feel at home in some ways when I am in Mexico, but it is not MY home. The photo at the beginning of this post is the beautiful courtyard of family in Mexico, and I certainly felt at home when I visited in July of 2014.
Minnesota is my home now, and where I see myself living for the foreseeable future. I have lived here more permanently since 1998 and that is nearly 20 years now. I made some bold pronouncements during the Trump campaign when I declared that, if he builds a wall, I will go live SOUTH of it.
As a daughter of an immigrant parent and a parent who lived in Minnesota and Wisconsin in her life, I feel freedom and privilege to declare my home as anywhere I feel loved and safe. The world is my home. It is our home. I have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.
Home right now is Minnesota. Even though I am not the biggest fan of winter, I love the change of seasons. Summers are lovely and Spring and Fall make my heart sing. I often dream of retiring to Mexico, or perhaps living half the year there, and living on the North Shore of Lake Superior in the Spring/Summer/Fall. I am trying to convince my husband this would be a good idea; he does not argue too much, though he would like to find an expat community in Mexico, since he is not fluent in Spanish as I am.
I realize this reflects the privilege I enjoy as an American, and as a person with enough means to be able to live where I choose. And I am deeply grateful for this. I am always home. I will always be loved. I am grateful to be safe in this place.