Redefining Home… Again

2016-12-13-painting-003WhenI was young I had a love-hate relationship with moving. Moving every couple of years was a given. I knew I would not be staying in one place and, for the most part, I think I took it in stride. There were exceptions. The “final move” to Arizona between my 8th and 9th grade year. The year I had finally started colorguard and was starting to be noticed by boys. The year when I told my parents I would never forgive them for uprooting me from New York. The year when I rebelled against the week-long cross-country trip in our station wagon by wearing short jean shorts and a cropped white belly shirt, and my parents let me get away with it. Yeah, I didn’t take that move particularly well. But most of the time moving was an inconvenience at worst and usually a bit of excitement in my young life.

By the time I became an adult, in charge of where I lived and how long I stayed put, moving was in my blood. The longest I have stayed anywhere has been my two years in the Peace Corps, when I was contracted to a single apartment, job, and lifestyle. Other than that, my life has consisted of tiny little hops, perfectly summed up chapters of forgotten friends and lovers that passed through too many beds, apartments, and tents.

I’m not complaining. I liked my life. It was interesting. I had stories, and for an introverted writer, stories were much more interesting than long-term relationships and a sense of roots. Sure, life would have been easier if I stayed in one place. Think of the money I would have saved if I could have stayed in one university for four uninterrupted years. But then, think about the sunshine and perspective I would have lost if I hadn’t been ready to up and leave at a moment’s notice when I found the random article about being an exotic dancer on Guam. It was all a give and take and, honestly, it felt like a lot more take.

Until I became a parent and ended up second guessing every decision I make for this tiny, amazing and absurdly dependent person. Like moving.

I decided I wanted my kids to have stability. Roots. A strong sense of community and self. The things that I lacked that led to my particular brand of anomie. I made that decision, and yet since Peatuk was born (less than 3 years ago) we have moved 4 times. 4! Four different apartments in two different cities. At first it wasn’t so bad, mostly because I told myself that he would not remember it. The first three moves came when he was about 4, 8, and 10 months. Not too big of a deal. He couldn’t talk or even walk yet.

But this last move has stung me to the core. The other day we were in the car after picking Peatuk up from daycare. He asked me where we were going and I told him that we were headed to the new apartment. He said he didn’t like the new apartment. I told him that was where we lived now and he would grow to like it. (I wasn’t too worried at that point, because he had said that he likes the new apartment plenty of times and was just in an ornery mood.) Then he threw down the hammer:

“Mommy, I want to go home.”

Home. There’s that word. Not the old apartment, but home. I realized that Peatuk had all of his memories wrapped up in our old apartment. That was where he learned to walk and talk. That was where he went to sleep with two parents who loved him every night. That was where he laughed and talked over dinner every night. That sense of place and that concept of “home” was what I had wanted to instill in him, and here I was, at three years old, ripping him away from home to place him in a slightly better apartment. He wanted home.

I know that this apartment would eventually become home to him, but I also know that we only intend to be here for 3-4 years, that eventually I want a house with a yard and place for Peatuk and his sister to play. I know that this place will become home to him and right about that same time I will uproot him again, taking away his sense of security and self, and it is heartbreaking.

I know that we needed to move. With a second kid on the way a one-bedroom apartment wasn’t going to cut it. I love this new apartment. I love the view. I love the space. I love the location. But part of me is heartbroken. Especially as I listen to Peatuk’s language slowly adjust. For several days, the new apartment was the “new apartment,” and the old apartment stayed, “home.” But lately I have heard him cautiously test out the words, “old apartment.” He echoes them back to me, still not ready to call this place home. I realize I have made my little one homeless for the moment.

I remind myself that home is more than a roof and floor. Home is the people you love and those that love you. I remind myself that this is for his benefit. I remind myself that he still has me and Nikola. I remind myself that he is resilient and inherited Nikola’s positive attitude. He’ll be fine. Another month or two and this will become home. But still, a little piece of me is heartbroken at his confusion.

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