I was talking to Soup Boy this evening, comparing notes about our holiday visits to the states. We are following wandering stars, Soup and I, and our intersection in this town is more about coincidence than fate. The Boy is younger than I am, and has not settled down on his own the way I did in San Diego. Until this Christmas, however, “home” for him had always meant his parents’ place, the building he had grown up in with the rest of his family.

On his last visit, he realized that something had changed. It was not “home” anymore, it was the place he had grown up. It was his parents’ home. He was there, and he was a visitor. Not to take away from people who cannot afford a roof over their heads, but there’s a difference between homeless and houseless. I sold my house, and I left my home. Now I live here.

Soup Boy and I talked for quite a while about what home is. Actually, he did most of the talking, because he had been doing most of the thinking. He was visiting friends in Los Angeles, and he talked about what he would do when he got home. “You mean, back to my place,” the friend would clarify. Soup Boy came to the realization that for him, home was wherever he was. Soup Boy is a snail, a Jet-Set snail who can traverse continents in an afternoon, but home is with him wherever he goes.

For me, the definition of Home is different. Home to me is any place I can feel I belong, any place that when I walk in people look up and know my face, and I can sit and do my thing and it’s part of the rhythm of the place. Home is where I’m part of the background, contributing my own hum to the room tone. Home is not a perfect place; here at the Little Cafe right now the window is closed and the smoke is making my eyes burn, my lungs ache, and I’m not going to be able to wear these clothes into my apartment. Still, for the hardships, I feel a connection to the people here. Although bartender turnover seems to have been 100 percent in the time I was gone, all the regular dogs are here.

Dog is not a euphemism in this case. There’s a cocker spaniel curled at my feet as I write this, happy that I am home.

2 thoughts on “Home

  1. Animals have a special way of making a house a home very quickly.

    Each of us probably differs tremendously on what it takes to make a dwelling or a neighborhood a home; folks with a higher “gypsy” or “wanderlust” quotient can make their home practically anywhere they can hang their hat. Yet others of us with a higher need for security and rootedness want to have a a solid social support network in place as part of the “home” concept.

    Perhaps Jerry got to think a little more about the “home” concept when he was in San Diego and found himself severely inconvenienced after misplacing the card that linked him to cash and finding himself separated from resources and with a perhaps slightly more tenuous social support structure after many months away from his former home.

    For many folks, the local watering hole is an essential part of the “home turf” experience. Yet I feel out of place and in as somewhat alien environment when I’m in a bar.

    Conversely, many folks would be intensely uncomfortable on the water, yet sleeping on a boat is intensely comforting to me and hearing the surge of the waves bonds me to my childhood. I’m also comforted and feel oddly at home on our old railroad train with its irregular rhythms as it traverses the rails.

    So, what makes a home for you? Predictability? Security? Comforts? People and relationships? Cultural stuff? Books or pets or hobby stuff? Bars and watering holes? Libraries? Nature? Urban amenities? A place where you can comfortably express yourself? A place where you are greeted and understood? A place where people expect you and make you part of their rituals and pastimes?

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