My guest post today comes from Alexa who is the co-admin for the site Art Room Melody. She’s sharing a personal experience today that will make you think of the answer to the question, “What does HOME mean to you?”
Due to my father's career, I traveled all over the world as a child. We mainly lived in Paris, but I have also lived in London and New York City, and traveled throughout Europe, Asia, and the U.S. I did my undergraduate studies in NYC, and graduate school in Chicago.
When I first moved to Chicago, I was underwhelmed. Having lived in so many large cities, Chicago seemed small to me. Additionally, my parents lived in New York, and I really missed being able to see them on a regular basis. As a result, I contemplated transferring to a school in NYC to complete my degree after only two weeks in Chicago. My mother came to visit me over Labor Day weekend that year, in order to bolster my flagging enthusiasm.
As she had never been to Chicago before, I carefully researched Downtown Chicago Hotels in order to find the perfect hotel for her stay. I made a reservation at The James, both because it was a familiar name from NYC, but also because of its ideal location. It was within walking distance of The Museum of Contemporary Art and various other attractions, and I wanted my mother's stay to be a memorable one.
As we walked along Michigan Avenue, my mother sensed that all was not well with me, and she asked me what was up. The words spilled out, that I was homesick, that I didn't like living so far away from her and my father, and that I was thinking about moving back home.
Her response was simple: "Define home." I was at a loss. Home was where my parents were, always had been. I tried to convey this to her, hating that I sounded like a little girl.
“Chicago isn't all that far away from New York, you know," she replied. She looked around at the buildings lining the street and continued: "You have lived all over the world. It would be one thing if you had always lived in the same place, but you haven't." Again, I was at a loss.
"You know, before I met your father, I had never travelled out of Minnesota," she said. "When the time came for me to move across the Atlantic, I was terrified. I hated London, and I detested Paris. However, I came to realize that the cliché, 'Home is where the heart is,' is true to an extent. Home is also what you make it. It can be London, New York, Chicago…it can even be a farmhouse in the middle of Indiana. Home is “subjective.”
I tried to imagine my mother as a young, scared woman moving to a foreign country in order to be with her love. I had never considered her in that light, as I had always viewed her as cosmopolitan and cultured. She switched the subject after that insight, and we continued with our day.
We had a great weekend together, catching a performance of "Wicked" at the Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre and shopping for things for my new apartment. I started to see Chicago in a new light, feeling at home for the first time since I moved there.
When she was leaving to go back to New York, I found myself dreading her departure. She hugged me goodbye, and I inhaled her perfume. I didn't want to let go. She pulled back and looked into my eyes. "You know we love you, right?" she asked. I nodded. "We are only a few hours away," she continued, "We will visit you every weekend, if it will help you settle in better. We only want you to be happy."
At that moment, I knew I would be okay—not because of what she had just said, but because of what she and my father had taught me throughout my life, namely that home is everywhere. Every time we moved to a new city (or country), my mother had immediately started to make it our home. Her earlier confession shed a new light on how difficult it must have been to have been constantly uprooted, yet she always handled everything with grace and strength. I was determined to carry on her legacy and do the same.
It's been two years since that uncertain time, and I am happy to report that I eventually decided to make Chicago my home, even after finishing grad school. Every time I walk along Michigan Avenue, I am reminded of my mother's visit, and I am filled with a renewed determination to be the kind of woman that would make her and my father proud, one who accepts all of the delightful curveballs that life throws my way.
So far, so good.