In I’m a Stranger Here Myself the author, Bill Bryson, wrestles with the idea that one can never go back home after being away for a while.  I touched on the question, “what is home?,” in my N. Scott Momaday post, but I’d like to dedicate a little more time to the question.

I listened to this latest Bill Bryson book on my drive to and from Oxford, OH this past weekend.  The trip to Oxford takes about 8 hours.  A good audio book is necessary in order to survive the monotony that is central Illinois.  This book is a series of essays about American life according to the author.  He had just returned to America after living in England for 20 years.  He and his family settled in Hanover, NH.  I’ve never been there, but it sounds pleasant.  He comments on things he loves about America, things he hates, things that have changed, generalizations about American life, and so on.  He is basically reflecting on America and what it means to be American.

Bryson grew up in Iowa.  I currently reside in Iowa.  But is it home?  What is home?  I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I went to college in Indiana.  I did my Master’s degree in Ohio.  Are any of these places home?  Are all of them?  Most of my family and friends still live in Michigan.  Does the fact that I grew up there and the fact that my family still lives there make it home?  My girlfriend lives in Ohio, where I lived for four years before moving to Iowa.  Is that home?  Does her presence there make it home?  If she moved would it lose that status?  Is Iowa home?  I’ve only been here for 3 months.  I hardly know anyone or where anything is.  Can one have multiple places they call home?  Does home have to be a place?  And once you’ve left home is it possible to go back?

A part of me will always consider Michigan home.  Always.  That is where I feel rooted.  I have a deep attachment to the places and the people.  It has changed a lot over the years, but it still retains some essence and power to me.  My attachment to my place of birth runs so deep that I intend to dedicate the rest of my academic career to the study of it.  For me, it is the center of the universe.  It is the place I can always return to.

A part of me still considers Ohio home.  As long as my girlfriend lives there I will consider it home, in a way.  When she moves out of that part of Ohio it will most likely lose that status.  Northern Ohio is a different matter.  My dad’s side of the family has lived in Bowling Green since the 1830s.  I can (and have) walk(ed) through the cemetery at Plain Congregational Church and feel a deep rootedness.  This is the place of my ancestors.  I have a connection there.  There’s a history and a memory tied to that place.

Part of me is starting to think of Iowa as home.  But it is a temporary home.  I have family and friends here as well.  But I’ve only been here three months and don’t intend to stay after I finish my Ph.D.  Maybe it will grow on me.  Perhaps I will develop a deeper connection here as well.  We’ll see.

Where is home for you?

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