Living abroad, visiting the States, relishing Europe, wallowing in America, soaking up culture, having it all: but where is my home? This week I am in Arizona, visiting family. In some ways, it feels like home. Even in this desert land, the shower has 5 times the pressure of ours in Lerici, an area known for its rain. The on-demand water heater just rocks: hot now like Krispy Kreme, short shower and I feel good. And the towels are fluffeh! If you don’t know what I mean, don’t use your dryer for a month. The house is insulated and comfortable for human habitation. The refrigerator is huge and dispenses filtered ice and water. I don’t have to check with anyone about using the oven, water heater, microwave, and dishwasher all at the same time. There is enough juice for everybody.
At home, where my cat and my man are, we get by. What is available is sufficient, as long as we have mail order. Sure, the cuisine is one dimensional and that wears on an American. And I have to wear Bob Cratchett fingerless gloves in the winter just to type because we have no control over the heat. But day to day I’ve grown accustomed to the limited shop hours, cooking everything from scratch, planning outings based on potential availability of parking, doing laundry based on the weather forecast (6 hrs of sun = synthetic load; full day of sun = cottons; weeks of rain means the bedroom doors are permanently draped in sheets and jeans ~at least it adds a fresh scent to the room). It’s my life, for now. Home? I guess.
But, as always and forever, there is scuttlebutt about the future of the man’s center of employment. What if it closes? Could he find something else in Europe? Do we want that? What if we went home, back to the States? I’d be expected to become employed again, which is fair, but unappealing. But after 5 years where we are, I feel life back there would be so easy. I have become empowered. Tasks which used to seem daunting to me became all but impossible in Italy, so I’ve learned to steel myself and make it happen, also prayer helps tremendously: do all things as unto the Lord and He’ll give you a hand. When those ubiquitous barriers are left behind, I will be a dynamo! (I have learned the lesson about prayer; that stays)
In that world, my sister buys gift cards for things she’s already planning to purchase because when she gets them at the grocery, that store gives her discount points for gasoline. Amazing. Dinner last night was, to begin with, pretty good fast Chinese. It came with glasses we filled and refilled ourselves. Not just soda, which isn’t good for the body anyway, but spiced black tea and mandarin green tea. Lovely.
Which leaves me sorting the availability of absolutely anything and everything here. Much of it I wouldn’t take anyway. I don’t need 72 oz of soda. I don’t want meat in every meal, let alone pounds of it. I can go for miles and miles without seeking food to drive through for. Americans want to emulate the “Mediterranean lifestyle,” without knowing what that really means (Hello Greece, how’s that economy?). I’m living it and what people are searching for can be had right here at home. Better, in fact. But you have to filter out all the rest. So why am I even torn at the thought of coming back?
Paris. Munich. Istanbul. Languages. Peoples. These are what I have and would miss terribly. I love these places, speaking the tongues of others, seeing how they choose to live in their spaces and places. The quality of life in the US is thick, but homogenous. Even with the European Unionification, differentness remains. As does the history. Somehow, they manage to let in the future without paving over the past. Ancient buildings house contemporary concerns. Cities of great history are connected by high speed trains. Civilization has been happening in these places for two thousand years and more. It has branched and turned at every corner, succeeding better in some places than others. But the human experiment continues. North America is isolated, cut off, from our own history. Hyphenated-Americans have no idea what “their people” are truly like, how they speak and think, unless they have spent time in the Old Country themselves. I would miss the depth, the variety of cultures here, the excitement of traveling between them. I. Would. Miss.
Yeah, yeah, everyone should have such concerns. But more than whether or not I get to continue living over-seas, is how we know when we are home. If nothing beyond the front door and precious little behind it feels familiar, comfortable, one’s own, what is home? If it isn’t where we are or what we have, it must be who we are and what we do. And over those things we have more control than the rest. Make yourself at home, indeed.