What is home? Is it the place that speaks to us? Is it family and friends? Is it culture – the language, activities and events of our lives? Or is it some delicate, indefinable balance of those three?
Then there is my friend Christina. She lives full time in her travel trailer, and home is wherever she happens to stop. Truly, she has found home within herself, in her soul.
In 1973 I drove to Bisbee for the afternoon and ended up spending the night. Within two weeks, I’d quit my Tucson job, loaded my meager belongings into my old Oldsmobile, and the cat and I moved to Bisbee. Something here had whispered to me that this was home.
I have left twice. Once I went to Montana and loved the twenty months I spent there. Then a month of thirty below zero sent me back south. Years later I took a job in Kansas City, and though I eventually learned to love it and made it a good place to live, Bisbee was always there in the back of my mind. I was desperate for the mountains, the deep blue of desert sky, and the monsoon rains. Bisbee was home, and fortunately, after a seven year absence, it took me back.
Not always so for others.
My friend Lucho fled Chile in 1974 when Pinochet’s death squads targeted him because he was the head of the teachers union. Lucho’s time was up. He got political asylum and settled in Kansas City. It was safe in the late 1980s, so he went home for a visit.
When he returned from two weeks in Chile I was anxious to hear of his trip, a little afraid we’d lose him because Chile was, after all, his home.
But no. He had not been well received. Those who stayed – and were alive to see him – blamed him for leaving. They had stayed and done battle and he was seen almost as a traitor. In their view, he should have stayed. He should have died. Then he would truly be Chilean.
Lucho knew he would never go back to Chile, that it was no longer home, and he struggled to have his uneasy life in Kansas City make do.
I met another man, a New York City cabbie. We chatted while he whisked me across Manhattan. He’d come from Ethiopia seven years previously to work and send money home so his siblings could go to school. He’d hoped to be here only a few years, and he’d actually accomplished his goal.
“Why haven’t you gone back?” I asked.
“I did. It wasn’t the same. I wasn’t the same. It was no longer home.”
“So now New York is your home?”
“No. I am not really a New Yorker. I no longer have a home.”