When I think of home, so many memories are conjured up for me, that the thoughts often get very jumbled.
Is where I am living right now ... home?
What makes a place feel like home?
Will I ever be able to say "I am from here."
All these things make me think of the home I spent most of my childhood in. It is the house I identify in when I am asked the question, "Where did you grow up?"
(The question: "Where are you from?" still leaves me not sure how to answer.)
My childhood home, from the time I was 5 until the day I left for college was a doublewide mobile home in Coconut Creek, Florida.
Prior to that we had lived in a few different places in South Florida. We had also spent one year in Chicago, Illinois where both my parents were from. My Dad had tried to make a go of an aluminum siding business with his four brothers, but in the end their hearts belonged in a warmer place.
I have vivid images of the day we went to the see this home in Florida for the first time, and my parents let me choose which room would be mine. I bopped back and forth between the two bedrooms over and over again before I chose one -- feeling the weight of such a big decision. Over the years, my younger brother and I would get bored and switch rooms frequently and so, in that house, my bedroom blurs between the two sides of the house.
I remember Christmas when my dad's parents came to visit. I was probably 10 or 11 years old. It was so cold in South Florida that year that the electric company couldn't keep up with the demand and the heat went out in homes all over the coast -- our's included. We spent the holiday moving from room to room -- whichever was currently facing the sun.
Except my Grampa. He stayed in the living room -- his Chicago blood running strong -- wearing his hat and gloves and jacket and shoes -- reading the paper as if it wasn't cold at all.
I can remember getting our first microwave oven in that house.
I remember our first remote control was attached via cord to the TV.
I remember my Dad borrowing a VCR from the school he worked at so we could rent a movie at Blockbuster for the weekend.
I know my mom wasn't proud of that house. She didn't like living in a trailer. Especially one that had been put in backwards which meant you hard to enter the house through the laundry room.
But I didn't understand why she didn't like it. It was our home, and I didn't see it as different from anyone else's home.
(Until I was a grown-up and began to comprehend what a stigma was and how it was difficult to not be put under one. People make a lot of jokes about people in trailer parks. I get that now. But it didn't feel that way to me as a child. It felt normal and okay and comfortable.)
I remember getting my first bike. It was a boy's bike, but I didn't know the difference. I just knew how free I felt riding around the neighborhood streets with the boy twins (Nathan and Jesse) that lived down the road from me. I jumped speed bumps and fell more times than I could count.
There was a lake behind our house. You can just barely see it between my brother and I in this picture to the left. (Aren't our lunch boxes great?) We swam in that lake and fed a lot of ducks there. Back then, South Florida wasn't the booming metropolis that it is today. There were places of peace and respite. (Something that I feel is seriously lacking there now.) Our neighborhood was peaceful and that lake contributed to that.
I got my first kiss in this house from my now-husband.
We evacuated that house in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew blew through. We cautiously drove back home not sure if the trailer had survived the Category 5 storm. In the end, a slight turn at the very last minute meant that Miami took the hardest hit and only one house in our neighborhood was destroyed.
I had numerous Division I basketball coaches sit in my living room and eat my mother's dessert and try to sell me on why their school was the best for me.
(Paul Sanderford and Western Kentucky University closely edged out Georgia, NC State, Appalachian State, and Florida State University.)
Today, this mobile home park doesn't even exist anymore. It has been torn down and replaced by a series of picture-perfect apartment buildings. I doubt the lake is there either.
But for me, that will always be home.
Home has changed many times since I left that trailer park in 1995.
I would spend the next 20 years in a variety of places:
- 1995-1997 Dorm room in Bowling Green, Kentucky
- 1997-1998 Apartment with four girlfriends in Bowling Green, Kentucky
- 1998-2000 Townhouse with my husband in Bowling Green, Kentucky
- 2000-2003 Duplex in Franklin, Kentucky with my husband
- 2003-2004 Mother-in-law apartment in a house in Rochester, Minnesota
- 2004-2007 Condo in Rochester, Minnesota (our first purchase!)
- 2007-2010 Base housing on Eglin Air Force Base where we added a dog, one boy, and two boys!
- 2010-2012 One of my favorite houses on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey
- 2012-2014 Massive "palace" on the island of Terceira in the Azores, Portugal
- 2014-2015 Rental house in Spring Hill, TN
- 2015-? Our final resting spot: Farm in Eastern, TN
But when I think of my childhood home, this is what I think of.
And I think happy thoughts!
Hunting for chocolate easter eggs on Easter Sunday, watching the Bulls win their championships and subsequently watching my father do a headstand in the living room, and typing away on my very first typewriter: a non-electric gem that solidified my love of words and typing.
All pushed together.
THAT was home.
And I pray my children will be able to look at what we are building here for them as the same thing when they flashback decades from now.