‘Home’ is in a state of flux.
Home used to be Centennial, Colorado, where I spent my childhood and adolescent years within the same general radius, moving from house to house in a city that remained the same. When I think of Centennial, oddly, I always think of Southlands Mall. Southlands had that frozen yogurt place where I showed my best friend my brand new iPhone 4S in a rush of elation at being on the cutting edge of technology. It had the Victoria’s Secret where I bought my first pieces of lingerie because Jazlynne said that was the adult thing to do. It had the movie theater I visited countless times, the Noodles & Company which I seemed to only rarely be able to afford, the fast food restaurants on the far side where my dad would take me through the drive-through as a step up from our usual dinners.
Centennial is familiar to me, like a winter mitten, something I can remember and trace the shape of with my eyes closed. There was something immensely satisfying about living in a state for so long that you started to understand the geography of it: the disjointed neighborhoods starting to make sense in context to each other. Cherry Creek had the Italian restaurant I went to with Danielle in elementary school, Denver had East High School and that record store and Spirit Ways where I made fairy houses in third grade. Golden is a college town with an amazing pizza place Bri and Jaz and Hannah and I went to; and we were drunk on giddiness and freedom even though our parents wanted us home. Greeley is where Jeremy and Alex live, it’s a spread out rural suburbia where the kids drink late into the night and the houses are towering things. Everywhere had its significance, everywhere was somewhere I’d seen, nothing was scary anymore.
The mountains were another thing. I took them for granted but they never got old. They were a permanent fixture on the skyline of my youth, like the wallpaper your mother put up in your nursery which still appears in your dreams.
When I left Colorado, that home, I felt like I was being ripped away. I left in a flurry of nervous glances and fast-clipped steps immediately after my High School Graduation. I was ushered out of the gym with a security guard herding my clustered family, until they stowed me in a car, and we pulled out of the parking lot with a collective exhale. We had breakfast at The Perfect Landing, another place with memories (parties, anniversaries, when my grandparents waltzed during dinner). And when the plates were scraped clean and the photos were taken, and everyone left, I waited for a taxi to take me to the airport. I caught a plane to the east coast and hid for a while.
Every now and then when I get sad I think about that exit: it felt like the lack of a goodbye. It felt like my ending was stolen from me. I missed every graduation party, every parting get-together that my classmates and friends slowly and tearfully prolonged, unsticking their home from themselves with laborious and nervous fingers, shaking it loose to find a static cling remaining, relishing in it, and then brushing it off for good. My goodbye was a ripped bandaid. It was over so soon that I didn’t even feel the pain.
Maine, by all rights, was supposed to be the new solution. It became Home. I moved into my mother’s small apartment with the things I had managed to smuggle out of my dad’s house and claimed my space in the makeshift bedroom there, separated from the living room by a curtain. When I got my own space in Boston, it was bigger and better and had a locking door and its own kitchen and shower and the windows opened onto the city like the promise of a brave new world, and it was, it was brave and new and beautiful. It feels the most like home to me now. It feels like the first place that was mine.
But Centennial wasn’t magical because it was mine. It was magical because it was where I grew up. It had my family and my friends and the very roads that served as getaways for Bri and I in her car; it was deeply and all-encompassingly familiar.
I feel like a visitor when I’m in Maine. I feel like the Summer Tourist I always was. My mother might move away this year and shutter even the apartment with the curtained-off bedroom. And in Boston, I am the college student, who is exploring a new place with the joy of someone falling in love for the first time. But when the year ends I’ll pack up my things and move them to a different building and a different room, and when three more years end I’ll leave the city altogether. I can’t go back to Colorado. Bri told me returning was like stepping into a time capsule, and even if I had a reason to go back, I know that my capsule has been dug up and shattered, and the memories were irrevocably released, pouring like silent gasses from the canister into the open air. I expect I’ll be afraid to visit Southlands, which is five minutes away from where my dad still lives. I expect I’ll be followed by nervous texts wherever I go from family members who see Colorado only as an open jaw, with jagged, dripping teeth.
So the question presents itself, obviously. Where is my home?
As I write the question fills me with less and less anxiety. As I remind myself of the doors that have closed behind me I can’t help but feel relieved. So what if I’ll never relive my childhood? So what if I’ll never see the Jericho house again, that house in Colorado where for the first and last time I knew what a normal, whole family was like? So what if Maine is not my own place, and just a waystation, and a shrinking waystation at that? So what?
I have where I am now. I have everywhere I go. I have the bus that carried me here and will carry me back, the phone in my hand full of messages from Bri and Parker as I rode. I have those people. I have who I keep with me.
It’s sad to know that I’ll never get the goodbye I always wanted after High School. It’s sad in an inevitable way. But when I think of that blonde haired girl with the small-toothed smile who cried with me over the phone, because I thought I’d be moving away, when I think of Bri, I know that I’m stronger for leaving old places behind me. I know that anywhere a car exists and anywhere there’s a road I will have Centennial again. Centennial was just singing with Bri to loud lyrics from her stereo. Centennial was my best friend and the ways we killed time together, in the way that every teenager finds a way to kill time while waiting to finally grow up.
And god, I think I’m finally growing up. We both are. And things aren’t the same and home is just a memory.
I’m happy. /