I’m working on my list of 100 great songs. I got the idea from Gerry, who got the idea from his older brother. That’s not really what this post is about, though, so I’ll get into those details when I’m ready to post the 100 songs page.
What this post is about is the idea of home. I came upon this as a topic of rumination when I listed Shawn Colvin’s remake of the Talking Heads’ This Must Be the Place on my list (see? There was a connection there; I’m not just being all disjointed and random). Since then, I’ve been wondering just what, exactly, home is.
Mr. Chili chose that song as part of our wedding, so it’s pretty important to me, which is how it made it on to the list. Ms. Colvin sings it in a way that conveys, to me, the longing to find that person with whom you feel you truly belong – and the bone-deep comfort of having found that person:
Home – is where I want to be
But I guess I’m already there
I come home – you lifted up your wings
Guess that this must be the place
I can’t tell one from another
Did I find you, or you find me?
There was a time before we were born
If someone asks, this is where I’ll be
I well up just copying it.
I have a lot of strange feelings about what “home” is. The place in which I grew up burned to the ground when I was 15 (we had just moved out – the people who bought it wanted the land, but not the 284 year old house – with all the, let’s just call it charm, shall we? – that came with it), so I don’t have that place to go back to. Not that I would want to go back, really; the few memories I do have of my childhood aren’t the kind that inspire nostalgic trips back to old homesteads. In fact, I don’t associate anything having to do with my parents as “home,” so that’s pretty much that.
I moved around quite a bit before I met Mr. Chili, so there’s no place that resonates as a home to me there, either. Since I’ve been with my husband, though, I’ve lived in pretty much the same place; we built a house up the street from the apartment we shared (and, before we shared that apartment, we were neighbors) and we’ve been here ever since – working on 18 years in the same town.
Not too long ago, Mr. Chili asked me how I’d feel about moving, and this surprised the hell out of me. We’re just now nearing completion of a major addition project on this house, and it never occurred to me that he would even CONSIDER moving after all that we’ve been through to get the house to a point where we really, really love it. His motivation for the question, it turns out, is his disenchantment with the high school in our town; he’s looking to possibly relocate into a better district before Punkin’ Pie becomes a freshman.
Regardless of his reasons for asking the question, I was heartily surprised by my answer. My gut reaction – my answer-before-thinking-about-the-answer answer – was “sure, I’ll move.” I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t waffle. I didn’t reconsider.
I go where he goes. HE is my home.
Those of you who know me, drop your eyebrows back to normal and reel in your jaw. Yes, I have security issues. Yes, I like the predictability and the certainty of staying in one place – a place that’s comfortable and holds as few surprises as possible – but I’ve come to learn that it’s not the place that matters as much as who’s sharing it with me. Dave Matthews says this in his song, Where Are You Going, when he sings that I do know one thing / where you are is where I belong / I do know where you go / is where I want to be. I’d follow my guy down the street or across the planet.
That’s a fact.
That’s not to say that I don’t really love my region; I do. I’m a native born New England Yankee, and I suspect that I always will be, regardless of where I end up. One of my most favorite passages in literature captures, very nicely, the way I feel about this rough little stretch of land where I was born and raised, and which is seemingly as much a part of me as my own DNA. It was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Custom House, which was published as a sort of preamble to his masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter. Here, for your pleasure (and, hopefully, a little more clarity about what the hell it is I’m trying to express here) is the passage. Every time I read it, something in my soul nods sagely and says “yep. That’s it.”
Planted deep, in the town’s earliest infancy and childhood, by these two earnest and energetic men, the race has ever since subsisted here; always, too, in respectability; never, so far as I have known, disgraced by a single unworthy member; but seldom or never, on the other hand, after the first two generations, performing any memorable deed, or so much as putting forward a claim to public notice. Gradually, they have sunk almost out of sight; as old houses, here and there about the streets, get covered half-way to the eaves by the accumulation of new soil. From father to son, for above a hundred years, they followed the sea; a gray-headed shipmaster, in each generation, retiring from the quarter-deck to the homestead, while a boy of fourteen took the hereditary place before the mast, confronting the salt spray and the gale, which had blustered against his sire and grandsire. The boy, also, in due time, passed from the forecastle to the cabin, spent a tempestuous manhood, and returned from his world-wanderings, to grow old, and die, and mingle his dust with the natal earth. This long connection of a family with one spot, as its place of birth and burial, creates a kindred between the human being and the locality, quite independent of any charm in the scenery or moral circumstances that surround him. It is not love, but instinct. The new inhabitant—who came himself from a foreign land, or whose father or grandfather came—has little claim to be called a Salemite; he has no conception of the oyster-like tenacity with which an old settler, over whom his third century is creeping, clings to the spot where his successive generations have been imbedded. It is no matter that the place is joyless for him; that he is weary of the old wooden houses, the mud and dust, the dead level of site and sentiment, the chill east wind, and the chillest of social atmospheres;—all these, and whatever faults besides he may see or imagine, are nothing to the purpose. The spell survives, and just as powerfully as if the natal spot were an earthly paradise.