Tuesday, November 9, 2010

There's No Place Like Home...

I've often wondered if I clicked my ruby slippers together, where would I end up? Back in Illinois where I grew up, in Boston where I came of age, in New York where I've lived my adult life. Would it be Paris where first slept with a man, albeit a crazy Italian bakers son who marched through the Champs de Mars as 2a.m. singing the Bella Ciao partisan song or Mexico where I learned some lessons that have never left me? Rome when I became a writer? Basque Country where I dream of living?

What is home now and where is it? At times I feel badly that I really don't know. If someone said, decide. Where would I land? Where would any of us land? As I got off the plane from Iowa this weekend and watched all the travelers with their wheelies, I thought how we are all moving all the time. We are global villagers. We know how to pack, roll our luggage. We know when to power down our phones. We don't stand on docks any more with our steamer trunks and entourages.

So where is home? Where the heart is? Where we were born? In a way this picture on an Iowa crossroads, surrounded by fields, with a sign that reads "BROOKLYN" sums it up for me. Home is a series of intersections and crisscrosses and memories and all the places I've been and people I've known and loved and forgotten and lost. The animals I've seen and the foods I've tasted and the wine I've sipped. It's all the crazy things that have happened or haven't happened or I've wanted to make happen. It's a drunken night in Paris and a full moon setting in the Sahara. A sea cucumber swallowed in Beijing and a remembrance of my grandmother's brisket, tasted so many years later in Tangier. It's all the stories that have zipped through my mind; and the others that made it to paper.

I guess if someone put a gun to my head, I'd say that the Midwest is home. If I clicked my heels together, it's probably where I'd end up. But then I was just there this weekend. I gassed up at a place called Kum & Go. I drove behind a school bus, and almost rearended it, as I read its warning sign: "IT IS UNLAWFUL TO PASS THIS VEHICAL WHEN GIRLS ARE FLASHING." As I passed it, I saw that SCHOOL BUS had been painted over and "TIME WELL WASTED" was in its place.

I stopped at a rest stop outside of Des Moines. When I came back, someone had stuck a fake severed finger on my windshield. It looked very real. I hightailed it out of there fast.


  1. I love this post. As always, your writing lets us peek into your soul. But it's also a topic a lot of us can relate to -- Where IS home? I think about this a lot.

  2. I loved reading this Mary because i am one who never left the mid-west. I really never left home because now I have found myself going back to Highland Park more often then I ever thought I would... going into Bertucci"s and talking to Bruce and finding out about where the people I grew up with are---keep traveling so I can at least live through your wonderful words--thanks Mary and keep sharing ---Birdie

  3. Wow - love this post. (Found it via Alexis Grant's blog.) ...I often think of home too. Don't we all?

    For me, it's with a person. If he were to exit my life, I am not sure. I think often of my spiritual home in the church. I used to feel alienated in churches, but now, they feel like home.

    But, it's hard to tie home to a physical place -- how can three dimensions capture something with so much depth as home? They can't.