Bill and I recently spent a long weekend in the North Carolina mountains with my family. It’s an annual trip to celebrate both of my parents’ birthdays and their anniversary, all of which occur on the same day. (It’s weird, I know.) As we were leaving, I was tracking a developing storm and said something about how we might be delayed in getting “home.” My mom stopped me dead in my tracks and sternly informed me, “That is not home. This will always be home.” At the time, I dismissed it as a just figure of speech, with home meaning different things in different circumstances. But it made me think, where do I consider home to be now?
Even though I’m a U.S. citizen, my home is definitely not Omaha, NE or Buffalo, NY or Portland, OR. And even in my “home” state, I don’t feel at home in Rocky Mount or Boone or Elizabeth City. But I know what my mom meant. To her, home could be no other place than my hometown of Kings Mountain. To me, however, it’s not that clear-cut.
For the first 18 years of my life, until I ventured off to college, I lived in the same house (which my parents bought shortly after they got married, in 1970, and still live in!). The only time I left for more than a couple of days was for summer camps. When I went to college, it was only three hours away (still in my home state), and even then, for the first two years, I came back home for the summer.
When I graduated from college and really moved out on my own, it was to an apartment in Charlotte, less than 45 minutes away from my parents’ house. Then, when Bill and I got married, we bought a house less than two miles from my post-college apartment and lived there for 14 years. Even the rental house we stayed in after selling our home was only two blocks farther away.
Despite the fact that all of my adult life I’d lived less than an hour away from them, my family was ecstatic when Bill and I bought land in Kings Mountain and planned to build a house there. Finally, in their minds, I would be moving “home.” But it turned out that the plans for our house were too big (literally and figuratively) and the area was too rural. The banks essentially told us that we were crazy, and good luck, but they couldn’t help us build our dream house in the middle of nowhere. A few more setbacks finally put those ambitions at bay, and we regrouped and came up with a “plan B,” or in this case, “plan BVI.”
So instead of moving “home,” as my mom would call it, here we are, in the British Virgin Islands. Our current home is a nice apartment with vaulted, wood-beam ceilings and a view of the beach. It came fully furnished, but we brought just enough stuff with us to give the apartment a familiar feel. Even before our container of stuff arrived, I was already adopting the “this is home” mindset. And within six months, we’ve figured out how to live in a new country (it’s more difficult than you’d think), met amazing friends, and gotten comfortable in our new apartment (minus the heat, but that’s a different story).
But my mom is right. This will never be “home” in the same way that Kings Mountain is home. Or the way Charlotte is home. Kings Mountain holds my childhood memories – lots of firsts, some lasts, and more lessons than I can remember. And Charlotte is where I grew into adulthood, having moved there at 22 and not leaving until 40 (!). In Charlotte I made all of my adult friendships, started and grew my career, and found some of my passions.
But that doesn’t mean that the BVI isn’t also home – it just has a shorter history and fewer attachments. In my mind, the place you call “home” changes with the stages in your life. And right now, wherever Bill and the cats and I are all together, carrying out the routines of daily life and still experiencing new things, that is home.