The Home in our Heads

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I wrote this post over a year ago and I just discovered that I never posted it. Here are some musings on moving.


September 1, 2016:

The album I listened to when I left my childhood home was titled The Home Inside My Head.
Before I met my boyfriend, I hadn’t thought about pop punk much since middle school as my interest shifted to indie music. But in middle school, I wasn’t even one of those tween Blink-182 disciples. No, I was all about Motion City Soundtrack and Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco.
Of course, when you fall in love with someone, you explore their interests. There were a number of pop punk and emo bands that he showed me that I immediately took to (The Wonder Years, The Menzingers, which I had known from “Obituaries”, twiabp, Modern Baseball).
Ever since we met, he always mentioned Real Friends because they were actually from the Chicago suburbs. Due to my “complicated” feelings about my hometown, I abstained. Also I didn’t really take to what I had heard. But then their new LP came out.
What was playful ribbing turned into insistence. He said I’d really like it.
I listened to a song, “Empty Picture Frames”.
I liked it. I really liked it.

In August, my family moved out of my hometown home. We had lived there for over twenty years. We moved in from the city on Halloween when I was just a baby. It was supposed to be my parents’ “starter home.” They stayed a lot longer than that. But now, they were moving to Queens (my dad has already been living there for a few months for his new job). It was a happy coincidence – I finally get to see my parents more than three times a year (since I moved east to Syracuse University and now Jersey City). I just didn’t expect to get so emotional about my family leaving the suburbs.
So, I had a plane ticket to go home one last time before the move date. When I was waiting for my flight home, I had a little bit of access to wifi. I remembered that I liked that song. I’d give the album a try.
I didn’t listen to it on the flight going there – I actually watched The Sting for the first time.
The last time. I couldn’t believe that it was going to be the last time in that house. It hadn’t really hit me yet.
So I went home. I saw my sister for the first time in seven months. I saw my mom for the first time in four months. I saw my dog.
I was happy to see them, but I could see the weight of the situation in everyone’s face. This wasn’t just moving. This was uprooting our lives.
We were moving far. I had already been on the East Coast for a few years. I was happy to be there, creating a new home for myself with my boyfriend, and I was used to being that one in the family that was distantly sending messages. I had already learned to accept the pain of distance from my childhood home knowing I’d come back. I never planned to lose that home.
But during that last trip back, I realized that you never forget the feeling of childhood memories, the memories that characterize the first place that you knew. It feels like the blueberries that get smashed on the sidewalk when you’re walking in the summer. It feels like taking Coco out in the snow and she spends fifteen minutes walking around in the white fluff. It feels like the worn couch in the family room, my favorite couch to fall asleep on when a favorite show is playing in the background. It feels like waking up and looking at drawings on my ceiling. Most of them mine, but some of them from friends, from my brother and sister, my cousins. It feels like putting up little strips of quotes from my favorite movies and television shows on my walls when I felt alone. It feels like making chalk houses on the driveway, swinging on the swingset in the backyard.
It feels like Halloween. When the air is perfectly chilly, just enough that when I come back from trick-or-treating, I get some warm apple cider. Charlie Brown is on in the background and I dump all of my precious candy onto the scraggly carpet. That good kind of scraggly, where you can put your fingers through it.
It feel like those first Christmases. It feels like going to the community pool up the road, making comfortable small talk with the Christmas tree salesmen helping out with taking the chosen tree to the car.
It feels like being in the background as my dad and brother actually do all the heavy work setting up the tree back at the house. I shift back and forth behind them, pacing. Lucy fetches the water, or does something productive at least. I stand back and watch, looking up at the top of the branches. This is probably for the best, considering my trademark clumsiness.
Our house was the keeper of these memories. I had been there my whole life. Just looking at a dent in the wall would jog my memory about something. Something about ourselves. The house defined us, made us who we are.
My walls and my ceiling in my room are now painted grey. For most if my life, they were yellow and purple walls with pink and white striped wallpaper. My loft bed was a sanctuary. It’s where I read, where I wrote in my diary every day. It’s where I watched hours (no… days) of Monty Python, Kids in the Hall. It’s where I watched The Graduate for the first time, where I watched Midnight Cowboy.
The walls surrounding my bed were filled with quotes. The Simpsons started it all, when I wanted to compile all of Sideshow Bob’s quotes. I’d print them out and tape them on. It became other shows, other movies, inside jokes. I was surrounded by words that made me laugh so that whenever I was sad, I knew where to look.
I knew that I could always come home, which I know is incredibly lucky to say. I knew I could come home if I wasn’t invited to a party in my class but all the other girls at school were. I knew I could come home if I had been crying from schoolwork, or a test, or just a rough day. I knew I could come home because I didn’t feel like I belonged with a lot of people from that town. I knew I belonged at home.

I ended up listening to the album on my flight home. It filled in the gaps that I felt like what I was missing. The first song, “Stay in One Place,” hit me in my gut. It felt so relatable, so honest, that search for finally finding the place that makes you finally stop wandering. “Mess” felt like an ode to getting better but still realizing there was much to work on. “Colder Quicker” was the perfect closer, a soaring that felt transcendent, especially that first time that listened. That first time, I listened as the plane lifted in the sky. We were flying in the night sky, over the twinkling skyline of Chicago. It was a fitting goodbye, as this incredible, poignant album filled my heart and allowed me to let go, let go and create a new home.

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