Friday, July 6, 2007

Home?

I'm still strangely trapped between "homes," a kind of dysphoric limbo. Recently returning from a week in Michigan, I catch myself calling many places home. "I've just come back from a trip home," I said to one of the staff members at the high school the other morning. I got this quizzical look in return.

"Come back from home? What do you mean?"

His question jarred me. I haven't lived in Michigan for almost ten years. And, for a long time, I haven't really felt like Michigan was home; it is the place where I am from. I occassionally say that it is the place where I grew up, but it's not the only place.

Where in Michigan am I from? When my husband introduces me to someone new, he holds up his right hand, palm facing the stranger in a high-five sort of gesture, and points to the tip of his pinky finger. And he's right, in some respects. I lived near Traverse City until age 11, when my parents moved us down to a suburb just outside of Grand Rapids, more near where the head line ends on my palm. But when I introduce myself, if I don't just generically say I grew up in Michigan, I'll say that I'm from near Grand Rapids, assuming I'll be lucky if the person knows where that is, not bothering to give the exact name of the small town where my parents still live. It is where I went to middle school and high school, where I tried on a number of interests and identities, and started to shape and understand the person I am today. I consider Grand Rapids to be the place where I grew up, my former home; whereas my husband, who was born and raised in that area, to this day considers me to be still a bit of an outsider. A stranger in my home.

But of course, I haven't lived there for many years. I've done just as much growing up here - in Pennsylvania. First living in Pittsburgh and now just outside of Philadelphia for the past six years. Yet, I don't quite consider myself to be a Pennsylvanian either. I couldn't tell you the name of the state bird or state flower; I still feel like a visitor to this state in some ways. And even though I can tell you the state bird, flower, and fish (the robin, apple blossom, and rainbow trout, respectively), and that Michigan was the first state to start roadside rest stops for travelers (thanks to a my third grade teacher, Mrs. Mummert), it is no longer my home.

And so I am in limbo, occasionally calling both Michigan and Pennsylvania home, but feeling a little like a visitor in both.
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