Home. An elusive utopia–possibly nothing more than a myth or possibly something beyond the physical world that you never truly separate from.
As an adult, I still hesitate saying the word “home” in the same way I hesitate to say “I love you” to my own mother since she became my guardian indefinitely, that is, until I came of age. Somehow I have it in my mind that if it spills off of my lips, or if I give a specific place such a distinguished title, there’s a heavy expectation involved and an unbreakable commitment to it. It’s terrifying. When I think of Home, I think of the home that I lived in, on and off, from age four to age fifteen. A run-down, glorified shack on the wrong side of town, surrounded by woods but still right in the middle of the city. The church in front that we accidentally busted windows out of umpteen times, and colorful snakes and salamanders and caterpillars we’d bother, and how hot it would get in my room (an attic) in the sticky Southern heat.
I loved and loathed home. I was ripped away from it countless times. At the end of the custody battle, the judge finally said that my brother and I could finally stay there, Home, for good…only for mum to end up moving us 700 miles away a year later to live near her children in the mid-west. Even after winning we still had to lose.
As a young adult, free from the court system, I finally went back home, at least every summer. I still didn’t notice the dilapidation, or rather, it didn’t phase me because it was familiar. But the summer after Pops (mum’s former partner and the owner of the home) was sent to jail, it was clearly falling to pieces. I tried to save it from itself–weeks upon weeks I labored in the yard and through the house, cleaning, pitching, tearing down hazards. The roof was giving way, moisture buildup in the attic made the ceiling fall through, and I had to be careful of hypodermic needles and blood stains that junkies had left behind. I removed the old wood paneling to find Satanic chalkings and “BLACK POWER” all along what used to be my room. For every day I would clean, every night would give way to thieves who took it upon themselves to help me with the process. Tiring of the uselessness of the local law enforcement and not seeing an end to this project, I resigned to sticking everything indoors and locking it up for good. I had an appraiser come over for a quote…as I had guessed, health hazards beyond repair and a price tag worthy of no more than the lower teens.
I haven’t been back inside since. I never have nightmares, but the handful that I’ve had in my 20s have all been set in that house. Not the sort of nightmares that you can shake off, rather, the kind that put you into a cold sweat and have you wake up from your own screams. The kind that sear into your mind and that remain vivid in your memory no matter how long it has been since. I’m not a particularly superstitious person, but at some point home was no longer Home, and these nightmares affirmed it.
The woods were torn down a year ago and now a factory is going up nearby. I hear that you can wave to the neighbors in the street over now–imagine that. No more wildlife to interact with or enjoy observing. It’s all only exists in memory now. I guess my fear is that, once you submit to calling a place Home, how can you sustain it? How can you protect it–allow it to progress but be able to maintain that unique familiarity? To take it back to the earlier comparison of love, maybe I’ve lost faith in Home in the same way people lose faith in Love once it is gone or changed. But the question stands: Is Home even a real, tangible thing separate from the Self, or is it a constancy in the subconscious of an unattainable yet ever-present (in the mind, at least) place?