Isn’t the cliche that it’s the place where they have to take you in? If there’s more than one door open to you, are you just lucky or is it actually misfortune to feel the pull of two different places at once?
I’ve been working on a list of all the places I’ve lived, because I’m about to lengthen the list. It feels like looking back before you look forward is a thing that might lead to some perspective.
Making this list though is tricky, because what clearly defines a place you’ve lived? Is it where you keep your toothbrush? Because right now as I type this, I’ve got a toothbrush in three states. I guess home is like pornography? Hard to define, but you know it when you see it? (I could push this metaphor, but unfortunately, home is ultimately a family show.)
So let’s get practical. To me, home is somehow defined by a place where a) I’ve gotten mail (and had to fill out that change of address card from the post office with big block capital letters) and/or b) moved boxes as opposed to suitcases.
So, two weeks in Iowa directing a play (where I am today) doesn’t put Iowa on the list of places I’ve lived, but six months in London last fall (where we signed a lease and Hazel attended public school) makes the cut.
Here we go, and the list rounds out to a nice even 20:
1. Holly, MI (though I don’t remember it)
2. Grand Blanc, MI (my parents’ first house)
3. Grand Blanc, MI (the place I think of as “the house I grew up in”)
4. Kalamazoo MI (dorm #1)
5. Kalamazoo MI (dorm #2)
6. Kalamazoo MI (my first apartment–it had a glamorous balcony over a parking lot!)
7. Kalamazoo MI (my second apartment)
8. Kalamazoo, MI (my third apartment, a massive loft over an old train station)
9. Kalamazoo MI (a room in a rambling old house)
10. Chicago, IL (an apartment full of girls)
11. Chicago, IL (an apartment–with a boy)
12. Chicago, IL (a great apartment and my first flirtation with grownup living–with a boy, but this time, living in sin!)
13. Tallahassee, FL (our first house and where I formally switch the possessive pronoun)
14. Sarasota, FL (a grad school special–a tiny apartment made out of the second floor of the world’s smallest industrial park)
15. Sarasota, FL (a breezy bungalow in a leafy neighborhood near downtown)
16. Frederick, MD (a dusty apartment in a historic row home)
17. Baltimore, MD (our own private 1900 house, that we renovated and sold)
18. Madison, NJ (faculty housing, which strangely featured a fireplace and all the scary charms of living where you work)
19. South Orange, NJ (a beautiful, nearly 110-year-old house fulfilling all the promises of why you move just outside the city)
20. London, UK (a six-month hiatus last fall in a magical rented house with a newt pond)
If you map this, it kind of makes the big dipper, which means (of course) nothing.
*I think I need to make Murrells Inlet, SC, a late addition. My parents have lived there for fifteen years, and since I’ve had the good fortune to work in South Carolina on occasion, that place feels like home too. So. . .
21. Murrells Inlet, SC*
The big news though is #22. My family and I are moving to London on August 15. So, in conclusion:
22. London, UK
I have no way of knowing if living this many places is normal, but this is my life, so it feels normal to me.
If there is any perspective to be drawn from making this list, it is this: The planet is big, my life is short, and it’s a gift to see so much of the world in the time I’ve got.