Home is a funny thing. For the first 18 years of my life, home was the one bedroom apartment I shared with my mother, father, and sister in Manhattan. And that was it. I never went to summer camp, and my parents didn’t have a “country house” like some of the other families. We didn’t spend vacations with a grandparent or rent a cottage somewhere every August. In those 18 years, we never moved. My parents have lived in the same apartment for over 30 years. Fancy that. Home is—or for me, was—unequivocally, that apartment.
Then I went to college and came to understand a new meaning of home. A place to live and study, discover freedom and restraint. There were dorms, and the experience of having my own room for the first time in my life. I spent a semester in India, moving every week with home as nothing more than the backpack I carried. Senior year I lived in the nicest house I will ever live in with two best friends as we practiced being grown-ups. College gave me much more than a liberal arts education. It taught me that you can have more than one home.
It’s been 10 years since I started college and moved away from my first home for the first time. In those 10 years I have moved 11 times in three countries. At what point do you begin to call a place home?
Sometimes, on vacation, I find myself calling the hotel home. It’s not, but the bed to sleep in and roof over our heads makes it a close proxy. Is your bed what makes it home?
One year ago my husband and I moved to Israel. With two suitcases each, we distilled our physical possessions down to the necessities. What would make our new home feel like home. We are true expats, not letting go of the American comforts we’re used to. Each time we return from a trip to New York our suitcases are weighed down with English language books and DVDs, our favorite shampoo and toothpaste. Is home where your stuff is?
We just spent nearly two months in New York for the summer. Home. We stayed with my in-laws, which has become home too. It felt good. We belong there. Our families are there. Our friends are there. New York is more than home. It’s where I’m from and who I am.
And yet I felt a tug pulling me back. I realized that Israel, too, is home. Our apartment here is where we have carved out a space for ourselves with our ramshackle stove and used furniture, squirreling away American treasures and watching tv on the computer. We have friends here too, now, and when you’re this far from home, friends become family. And that’s part of what makes a place home.
Of course this, too, is temporary. When my husband finishes his program in two years we will move across an ocean, a time zone, and the world once again. And wherever we end up will be home too. Because home is where your bed is, and your stuff, and your friends and your family. And for my husband and I, we’ve realized that home is what we make of it, and wherever we are together.