My sense of home was never based on a house or a building. We moved around a lot when I was younger, and because of that my idea of what a home had more to do with my family than it did any sort of physical structure. We had also made a big move across the world when I was about 12, to South Korea, and this experience gave me the perspective that home could truly be anywhere in the world. As long as my family and I were connected and I could return to them, I was willing to go anywhere, lay my head on any sort of bed and make a temporary home in any place. That somehow grew into me getting excited about the prospect of finding a new place to visit and make my home - whether it be for a short vacation or an extended stay - it always seemed like an adventure.
As I grew older and had more adventures, I noticed something else - I had bouts of nostalgia for places I had been, and since the places were many, I found myself getting nostalgic about so many places, instead of just one or two places. Since I attach a lot significance to each place I go, it ends up being embedded into my soul in a way that makes those memories feel like home. This could probably be defined as a transitory nostalgia, and I don't think they are any less real or significant - each of those places and memories are formidable and influential - but now that I'm older, married, a mom, and a homeowner, I find myself trying to define home in an even deeper way: what does it means to nurture a place, to nest, to trust in the lines that have fallen for me?
Since we moved into our home two and a half years ago, I have grown to love it more and more. It's the longest that I have lived in one place since the end of high school almost 12 years ago, so it's significant. And I love it in a different way. It extends now to the fact that this home has been the place where friends and family has visited and stayed, where we first brought our daughter, where we have built a fire pit, a deck and a gym - all with the purpose of spending more time with each other and our people. Over the years, living in this space, I have found myself concerned with creating a physical sense of home - not because it is the end all - but because with responsibilities and to-do lists and the whirlwind of life, the physical home has become a symbol reminding me of things like rest, hospitality, rituals, and finding purpose in the small and daily.
A few weeks ago when we were visiting NYC, my parents and my sister spent an afternoon visiting one of our old homes in Tenafly, NJ. We all agree that it was the place of some of our favorite times. Tenafly is a small town with great school system and our days were filled with playing outside, walking to school, the library, to the park, to the store. During our recent visit, I saw with newfound eyes - specifically, a parent's eyes - how this kind of place met a bunch of the characteristics I was hoping for my future life with kids. I've always harbored fantasies about living in a big city, but that is not Ken's pot of jam. And while I never imagined myself in a small town, one of the main things that was appealing to me about the city - being able to walk everywhere - I could see could be possible in a small town. An even bigger bonus if a big city is nearby.
I'm not saying I want to move to a small town, or setting anything in stone just yet, but it's becoming pretty obvious that I'm thinking hard about what I want our family's life to look like 5, 10, 15 years down the road. As we reminisced our way through our old town, I started imagining what it would be like to live there, as an adult with kids. It was strange, but not unpleasant. These photos are of us taking nostalgic pictures of places that will probably only be meaningful to us, but here they are nonetheless. I wish I had taken some photos of the center of town, it is so adorable and picturesque.
Now that I'm looking ahead to what our life with 2 kids might look like, I'm having a lot of thoughts about what I want not just our home, but what I want our family life, our day-to-day life to look like. I'm thinking about what it means to prioritize time with family over the hundreds of other directions that life pulls out, about making time to eat and cooks slowly, about access to outdoor play, good books and the arts, and how to minimize excess stress factors. I'm making notes and discussing with Ken about the things that one most important to us as a family. I want to be intentional about casting a vision for our family and our home life. Intentionality makes me have to check into what I believe the purpose of our lives are, and this is a reminder that puts wind in my sails.
I am ever so grateful for the lessons of home that I've learned along the way. That I felt safe and secure enough with my family that I could call any place my home, that my parents taught me the importance of building my identity on an everlasting foundation and not a physical one, that my travels and my 20's taught me the joy of what it means to return home, that I married a man who so values a home, that my community of family and friends have defined for me what makes a warm home, and that my daughter and our coming addition make me glad for the space to nurture, grow and play.