Lately, I've been spending a little too much time thinking about what makes a place feel like home. This could be because some apartment-dwelling woes have been bringing us down. Or perhaps it has to do with bearing an inevitably long winter in a new city that still doesn't feel quite like my own. But whatever the reason, I find myself racking my brain - yearning, even - to think of a place to come home to.
As a child, I loved my home. More than just a roof and wood shutters, home was a collection of images and emotions. It was the safe space created after dark in the winter, falling asleep in a dark bedroom while my parents were still awake - a fact I knew to be true thanks to the soft glow of the holiday candles keeping watch in our bedroom windows.
In the summer, home extended past man-made foundations and into the streets around our house. Friends' houses felt like home, but so did the woods that surrounded the brook behind my cousin's backyard. And when we rode our bikes, barefoot, through hot neighborhood roads, steaming after the August rain, they felt like interconnected highways making up the intricate map of my domain.
I've felt home while climbing mountains in Vermont in February, peaceful and empty, with the only sounds being my boots in the snow and naked branches of trees bending together in the wind. I felt home on the Upper East Side, while jogging around the dusty path of Central Park's reservoir at dusk in late spring, with the knowledge that this city was just as much mine as anyone's every time I walked out the door. And I've felt home at the far tip of Cape Cod, as we filled up our Jeep's tires after a day of driving on the beach, The Eagles blaring on the radio as we bathed in the golden sun, setting in every direction around us.
We live in a transient time - an era when many don't have a home, albeit a safe one, and others never return to the places that they were raised. It's a generation of rented apartments, couch-surfing, starter homes and AirBnB. But still, I find the concept of "home" to be critical.
Our memories, through space and time, help us define where we come from. And if we're fortunate enough, we leave those homes and are forced to create walls around us to find solace, and to help us define what home is in the present. But we can never fully go back to where we came from; the only path from here is onward.
I love the words of Pico Iyer, who said that "movement is a fantastic privilege, and it allows us to do so much that our grandparents could never have dreamed of doing. But movement, ultimately, only has a meaning if you have a home to go back to. And home, in the end, is of course not just the place where you sleep. It's the place where you stand."
I haven't determined if Boston is my forever home. We have dreams of warmer weather, of backyards, and even travels abroad. But I mostly hope to create a place that imbues the same feelings of safety, comfort, and relief that I've felt in the past, whenever I walk in the door.
So in the meantime, it's a shift in perspective. I'll stop looking for familiarity and comfort in the way the light hits buildings in our neighborhood, and how it reminds me of another city's home. Instead I'll work to find a community that I can connect with to help build memories to place my cornerstone on. I'll explore new spaces and build rituals. And most importantly, I'll keep reminding myself that sometimes, something as simple as a person, a moment of stillness and an embrace, can help us feel safe and home.