A few days ago a reporter asked John McCain an odd question. He asked, “Mr. McCain, how many homes do you own?”. It sounds like a very simple question. McCain stammered and replied, “I’ll have to have my staff get back to you on that”. Huh? How can anyone be confused about how many homes they have? But I might have answered the question the same way as Mr. McCain. For a different reason.
For the record, Art and I don’t own any homes at the moment. We sold our home in 2005 and have been renting since, biding our time, waiting to decide whether and when we might buy a home again.
(A subject for another day). But you could argue that *we belong to* several homes. Let me explain.
We’ re back in Morris, Connecticut visiting with Art’ s mom, Marge. Now that I’ve been a part of this family for over twenty years (I considered us family to each other even before we were married nineteen years ago) – I feel that this has become another home. This is Art’ s ancestral home. And even though I am a relative new-comer, a second-generation American with roots in Eastern Europe, I feel accepted and part of the clan. This is home. And, oh, yes. Southern California is home. I’ve lived there for about 30 years, and my sisters and their families live there, too. My mom lived there for 30 years before she passed away in April, so – of course, I am now officially an Angeleno. (Is the feminine of “Angeleno” “Angelena”?). We are part of the culture of Southern California. We are health-conscious vegetarians. We practice yoga. We are musicians. We drink cappuccinos and lattes. We shop at Trader Joe’s and (occasionally) Whole Foods. You get the picture. In other words, we fit right in to what my father used to describe as “the land of the fruits and the nuts”. (Daddy was never one to be constrained by political correctness!). This is home.
And that brings me to my third home: Pittsburgh. I know I have described Pittsburgh to you before. The word “Pittsburgh” evokes such strong emotions in me that I am hard-pressed to describe it in a few words. Pittsburgh is paradoxically the place that resonates in the deepest reaches of my soul, and yet also repels me with equal force. I love it. I don’ t think I could live there – at least, easily – anymore. I ran as fast and as far as I could from Pittsburgh at seventeen and have never lived there since. And yet, whenever I hear of someone living in Pittsburgh or even visiting, I have a sense of bittersweet nostalgia. I miss the corner of Forbes and Murray, the easy back-and-forth style of conversation, Isaly’s sandwich shop, the earthy good nature of the people, my father’s family, whose ranks are diminishing, my grandmother’s cooking, the crisp autumn days. That’ s home.
Have there been other homes? Yes, to varying degrees. I lived in New York City for a year in my twenties. I loved the energy, the utter “city-ness” of it, the sense of possibility hanging in the air. That’s home.
But I also lived in New Mexico for a year and I loved it, too. I immediately felt a sense of home when I touched down for the first time in Albuquerque. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains sang to me. I loved the arroyos and the bright red chiles hanging on the porch. I loved the adobe and the cactus and the farrolitos at Christmas. I loved the wide open spaces. That’s home.
And then, too. I have a moveable home. That is my home with Art. If we lived in an RV with no permanent address, on a barge on the Mississippi, in a cabin on Lake George, in an igloo at the North Pole, that would be home, so long as we are together. That is my heart. That is my home.