Last night we drove home from a Bluegrass Festival through sweeping hills, farmland, and clear sunlight shining through the tall trees. I said, “The weather couldn’t possibly be any nicer” and then realized that statement was 100% true and I wasn’t exaggerating as I often would in saying that. I actually can’t imagine better than 73 degrees, pure blue skies and no humidity. And in this picturesque setting with award winning food in my stomach and Scarlet talking to her rubber ducky (his name is Baba) all the way back to Chapel Street, I started to seriously think about the concept of home to me, and how it has changed dramatically in the last ten years or so.
I feel like I’m at home in my house. That’s not a feeling I’ve always been lucky enough to feel. I felt it in my childhood home up until my parents moved to their new farm in Blairstown when we were mostly grown up. I never felt like I was home in their new house. I moved to New Brunswick when I was just turning 23 and although I loved my apartment and my roommates, it was three people sharing a bathroom and we were all at that point in life where things could change very fast. So there wasn’t enough stability (and bathroom privacy) to feel like home. After that year or two (and I can’t believe I can’t remember how long it was), I lived alone in Highland Park in a crappy, gloomy apartment which perfectly matched my crappy, gloomy mood. Both lasted about a year. Then I moved into a completely character-less, yet totally clean and shiny townhouse with my little sister. I had money back then and I had her. And we had three bathrooms for two people. And the a/c was blasting and I had a TV at the foot of my bed – the only time I’ve ever had that in life. And the master bedroom had double doors and a walk-in closet and a bathroom with two sinks. We lived in walking distance of two Dunkin Donuts and a large grocery store. I was happy. I did feel like it was home and I couldn’t wait to come home and relax after a night out. It was healthy.
…and it didn’t last. I ached to leave NJ and its strip malls, identical townhouses, congested highways, congested sinus cavities…and I ached to be with my love. So I left the only place I ever knew and found myself smack dab in the middle of the Haight in San Francisco, seeing more street life in one month than I’d seen in my 27 years. And it was hard and I never felt that it was home and it’s a shame I didn’t enjoy myself more before we moved back east.
I always wanted to live in New England. I definitely romanticized it after meeting Cassidy because this is where we first went after we met in New York City and this is where we shared our first moose and our first love. This is also where we went to share our second love but that is a story for another day. When we were apart for two years, I kept coming back to New England to feel that magic again. I couldn’t find it. When we had first been together, I had had visions of holidays and warm fires and the smell of wood burning and Cassidy wearing a flannel shirt and hiking boots and having a full beard. And there would be babies and dogs and maybe even goats. When we were apart and he was in California and I was in NJ, every time I went to New England, I’d see the dark side of the North. I’d see lonely, cold nights and no cell phone reception. I’d see widows dragging Christmas trees to the ends of their driveways signifying that the holidays were over and the darkest part of winter was here. I’d see people growing old and cold and alone.
Like I said, I always wanted to find myself here. I felt this way before Cassidy. I used to visit every summer when I was little because my grandparents rented houses in Vermont or New Hampshire. At first, it could be boring for five suburban kids who got tired of the one video store and one pizzeria towns. I just remember there were a lot of mountains and the nights were colder than in NJ. As I grew up, I began to crave that peace we had on my childhood vacations to New England. I liked maple syrup and nature. Moose and tall trees. Log cabins and the sound of tires hitting gravel driveways late at night, telling us we had arrived. I liked comfort. However even as a teenager visiting with my family and as a young adult coming up here to find moose and a magic I had lost, it never felt like home though I hoped it might one day. I found many parts of New England to be depressed and desolate and I couldn’t imagine living here after the populated madness that is NJ. I’d come up here but I couldn’t wait to get back to NJ and to the faster-paced life I knew.
Then when I left Jersey for good, it didn’t take long before I couldn’t call it home at all. I had thought I’d feel a good home feeling in California because I wanted to live in California even more than I had wanted to live in New England, but it didn’t work out the way I planned and I felt even worse out there. For over two years, I had no home feeling. It took coming here and making a life together with baby in mind to finally find my home.
Northampton is home because our lives aligned into place here. It just happened.
In high school, I belonged to a Literary Magazine club and since I have a photographic memory, I clearly remember poems that we received as submissions. Once we received a poem from one of our own club members and it included a line about how getting something you want and dream about never feels in real life the way it did in fantasy. And I remember her clarifying by saying something like, “Yeah…you know? You want something so bad and when you get it, it doesn’t feel as good as you thought it would be.” I really think she was talking about losing her virginity or finally dating a guy she had obsessed over. However, the conversation stuck with me. At that point, I’d never experienced an adult-like version of achieving something you only dreamed about. All I can remember is getting a puppy at nine-years-old after having wanted one for life. And let me tell you – that felt every bit BETTER to live through than it had to dream about.
As I wrote about here back in March or April, I’ve achieved real life goals that I had dreamed about for a long time and it’s true – it never feels like I thought it would feel. In some ways, it’s better because it’s real. In most ways, it’s not better or worse. It’s just different. Since I’m a little slow on the uptake and since I have done a lot of these dream-becomes-reality things at once, it’s happened that I’ve reached a life dream and didn’t even take the time to notice and celebrate it because I was so wrapped up in…life.
Well I noticed last night something big. Umm….I live in New England. Somehow I bridged the connection between wanting to call this place home, and calling this place home. And I’ve logically known that I live in New England but it wasn’t until the startling scenery of last night’s drive home that I truly realized – I LIVE IN NEW ENGLAND! I always wanted to. I don’t feel depressed or in solitude. I found a place within New England that isn’t really city, country or suburbs. It’s just…Northampton. And it’s surrounded by a vivid wilderness that is 100% New England wild. Yet it has all of the comforts of home. I’ve been here for a year and a half and now I have to commend myself for wanting to have been here and actually knowing how to be here. Yeah…slow on the uptake.
I’m glad I finally figured it out.