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Home is where?

The other day someone made a comment over at Ex-Teenage Rebel that got under my skin. Considering that it’s not even my blog and I don’t know the commenter, I’ve given a little thought to why the commenter’s jokey little comment bothered me.

In response to Pramas talking about our search for a decent falafel and Garlic King’s failure to hold a candle to his favorite falafel joint in New York, “Scooter” busted out with a couple of stereotypical pot shots about not being native to Seattle, (where we’re lectured that it’s “pop” not “soda” and “I-5″ not “the I-5″ and how it’s all the out-of-towners clogging up the roads for native Seattleites, blah blah). Just kidding, of course.

Shit like that bothers me, obviously. I react badly to that kind of native son snobbery and it only took a little thought for me to hit the deeper reason why. More than the us vs. them dynamic it sets up, which is the kind of thing that would predictably rub me the wrong way, if I buy into that logic I then become a person with NO HOME.

I was born in Minnesota, sure. I lived in tiny, remote little Ely, Minnesota until I was almost eight years old. However, I moved away as a child. I didn’t put in my “time” enough to claim that I’m from Ely or that Ely is my home. It’s certainly home-ish and important to me for those years and all the others when I returned for a week or two here and there for visits with friends and relatives. But those who were born and raised and continue to live in Ely, I’m an outsider. Little better than a tourist, unrecognizable to the population.

From the time I left Ely until the time I settled in Northfield mid-high school, I had no “home.” I wasn’t from anywhere. I lived in one place for a year, then on to another. Until junior high school I’d never gone to school in the same system with the same kids three years in a row. My mom eventually settled in Canby, Oregon and I lived there for three straight tumultuous years, but it’s not my home either. No matter how many people I remember from high school or how many visits back I made to visit my mom and brother, Canby was a blip.

I recently had to put together and swear to my list of residences from the time I was born until the birth of my daughter. Because Kate was born in Canada, I’m having to jump through an impressive series of hoops to prove that she’s really entitled to US citizenship. Though my citizenship is not (nor should it be) in question and I have a passport myself, getting Kate a passport has been a frustrating series of hurdles, including having to do things like prove that I actually lived in the United States before she was born. Laying out all of those different places of residence (and the implied challenge to my “legitimacy” that has underscored this whole process) has only served to inflame this sore spot that “Scooter” so unintentionally exacerbated. I lived in Minnesota for the first ten years of my life. I lived in Oregon for the next almost five years, in three different places. Back to Minnesota, where I spent seven years (with a brief sojourn to Georgia in the middle). A marriage and four years spent in Vancouver, BC. A divorce and a new life in Seattle ever since. Where is home?

I’ve lived in Seattle for a decade now. That’s the longest I’ve lived in any one place, ever. Even the time spent in Minnesota was broken up by frequent moves. My dad had three different places while I was in high school and I lived in five different places once I moved out on my own in Northfield alone. By contrast, I’ve lived in Seattle proper for ten years and I’ve been in the region (if you count living in Vancouver, where I could watch the Seattle television stations and make frequent trips to the city) for even longer. I own a house in the city and have lived in it for seven years! If I don’t make the cut, if I’m not a legitimate and accepted resident who can call Seattle home, then I don’t have a home and never will. That’s a pretty crappy prospect. Unlike my friends who chaffed and longed to get away from their families and their roots and their home towns, I’ve always wanted a home and a history to attach to it. I didn’t start with the advantage that (as Bill Hicks might put it) my parents fucked in one spot and never left, so HOME is where I’ve built my own life, where I invest my energy, contribute to the community, where I’ve started my business, gotten married, bought my house, raise my child, create my happy memories. HOME is Seattle, no matter how many native sons want to throw down over who was here first, or longer, or more “legitimately.”

60 comments to Home is where?

  • It’s hard work, putting down roots. My hat’s off to you, especially if you’re trying to make a difference where you are.

    I’ve lived in 14 places in the last 20 years (I also had to catalogue them not long ago – for a mortgage application). I really, genuinely, am not local anywhere, and I’ve grown comfortable with it. I don’t have to pretend that the people in my neighbourhood are some sort of family, or that any of the cities I’ve lived in have any sort of authentic primal identity. My answer to the question “where are you from?” varies, depending on who’s asking and where we are. If anyone says to me “you’re not from here” I’ll answer; “No. That’s right. But I’m here now.” But my investment is low. I can’t think more than a few years into the future, and although I’m Ok with it, I still worry about my kids growing up to be as rootless as me.

    • Kate growing up rootless was also a huge issue that I wrestled with. Her dad and I split up when she was still a baby and she has no memories of a time before Chris and I were together, so we’re a solid family in that respect but I definitely didn’t want Kate to go through the constant moving, uprooting, making new friends only to lose them existence that I lived through as a kid. I wanted her to go to school in the same school, with the same kids, in a familiar place that she felt was “home”. So far, so good on that one. She’s a great traveler and she’s seen a lot of the world already but at least she has a place to call HOME, to remember as HOME. I’m sure it doesn’t mean nearly as much to her as it does for me to know she has that much.

  • It’s hard work, putting down roots. My hat’s off to you, especially if you’re trying to make a difference where you are.

    I’ve lived in 14 places in the last 20 years (I also had to catalogue them not long ago – for a mortgage application). I really, genuinely, am not local anywhere, and I’ve grown comfortable with it. I don’t have to pretend that the people in my neighbourhood are some sort of family, or that any of the cities I’ve lived in have any sort of authentic primal identity. My answer to the question “where are you from?” varies, depending on who’s asking and where we are. If anyone says to me “you’re not from here” I’ll answer; “No. That’s right. But I’m here now.” But my investment is low. I can’t think more than a few years into the future, and although I’m Ok with it, I still worry about my kids growing up to be as rootless as me.

    • Kate growing up rootless was also a huge issue that I wrestled with. Her dad and I split up when she was still a baby and she has no memories of a time before Chris and I were together, so we’re a solid family in that respect but I definitely didn’t want Kate to go through the constant moving, uprooting, making new friends only to lose them existence that I lived through as a kid. I wanted her to go to school in the same school, with the same kids, in a familiar place that she felt was “home”. So far, so good on that one. She’s a great traveler and she’s seen a lot of the world already but at least she has a place to call HOME, to remember as HOME. I’m sure it doesn’t mean nearly as much to her as it does for me to know she has that much.

    • Kate growing up rootless was also a huge issue that I wrestled with. Her dad and I split up when she was still a baby and she has no memories of a time before Chris and I were together, so we’re a solid family in that respect but I definitely didn’t want Kate to go through the constant moving, uprooting, making new friends only to lose them existence that I lived through as a kid. I wanted her to go to school in the same school, with the same kids, in a familiar place that she felt was “home”. So far, so good on that one. She’s a great traveler and she’s seen a lot of the world already but at least she has a place to call HOME, to remember as HOME. I’m sure it doesn’t mean nearly as much to her as it does for me to know she has that much.

  • It’s hard work, putting down roots. My hat’s off to you, especially if you’re trying to make a difference where you are.

    I’ve lived in 14 places in the last 20 years (I also had to catalogue them not long ago – for a mortgage application). I really, genuinely, am not local anywhere, and I’ve grown comfortable with it. I don’t have to pretend that the people in my neighbourhood are some sort of family, or that any of the cities I’ve lived in have any sort of authentic primal identity. My answer to the question “where are you from?” varies, depending on who’s asking and where we are. If anyone says to me “you’re not from here” I’ll answer; “No. That’s right. But I’m here now.” But my investment is low. I can’t think more than a few years into the future, and although I’m Ok with it, I still worry about my kids growing up to be as rootless as me.

  • It’s hard work, putting down roots. My hat’s off to you, especially if you’re trying to make a difference where you are.

    I’ve lived in 14 places in the last 20 years (I also had to catalogue them not long ago – for a mortgage application). I really, genuinely, am not local anywhere, and I’ve grown comfortable with it. I don’t have to pretend that the people in my neighbourhood are some sort of family, or that any of the cities I’ve lived in have any sort of authentic primal identity. My answer to the question “where are you from?” varies, depending on who’s asking and where we are. If anyone says to me “you’re not from here” I’ll answer; “No. That’s right. But I’m here now.” But my investment is low. I can’t think more than a few years into the future, and although I’m Ok with it, I still worry about my kids growing up to be as rootless as me.

    • Kate growing up rootless was also a huge issue that I wrestled with. Her dad and I split up when she was still a baby and she has no memories of a time before Chris and I were together, so we’re a solid family in that respect but I definitely didn’t want Kate to go through the constant moving, uprooting, making new friends only to lose them existence that I lived through as a kid. I wanted her to go to school in the same school, with the same kids, in a familiar place that she felt was “home”. So far, so good on that one. She’s a great traveler and she’s seen a lot of the world already but at least she has a place to call HOME, to remember as HOME. I’m sure it doesn’t mean nearly as much to her as it does for me to know she has that much.

  • It’s hard work, putting down roots. My hat’s off to you, especially if you’re trying to make a difference where you are.

    I’ve lived in 14 places in the last 20 years (I also had to catalogue them not long ago – for a mortgage application). I really, genuinely, am not local anywhere, and I’ve grown comfortable with it. I don’t have to pretend that the people in my neighbourhood are some sort of family, or that any of the cities I’ve lived in have any sort of authentic primal identity. My answer to the question “where are you from?” varies, depending on who’s asking and where we are. If anyone says to me “you’re not from here” I’ll answer; “No. That’s right. But I’m here now.” But my investment is low. I can’t think more than a few years into the future, and although I’m Ok with it, I still worry about my kids growing up to be as rootless as me.

  • Kate growing up rootless was also a huge issue that I wrestled with. Her dad and I split up when she was still a baby and she has no memories of a time before Chris and I were together, so we’re a solid family in that respect but I definitely didn’t want Kate to go through the constant moving, uprooting, making new friends only to lose them existence that I lived through as a kid. I wanted her to go to school in the same school, with the same kids, in a familiar place that she felt was “home”. So far, so good on that one. She’s a great traveler and she’s seen a lot of the world already but at least she has a place to call HOME, to remember as HOME. I’m sure it doesn’t mean nearly as much to her as it does for me to know she has that much.