By Caitlin Kelly
Is there one more existential?
Maybe not, for some people, who are born, live and die within the same four walls or zip code or area code, state, province or country.
Others, like me, feel both at home in many places yet not really rooted in any of them.
I was born in Vancouver, Canada; moved at two to London, England; back at five to Toronto; then on to Mexico, Montreal, Paris, New Hampshire and then New York.
I’m writing this on a park bench in a small town in Ontario, visiting my father for a few days to celebrate my birthday and his 85th next week. He bought a lovely 1860s home a few years ago here and has fixed it up nicely — the garden now has fruit trees and a pond with koi.
To me, it’s heaven, a place I’d be thrilled to own.
But he wants to sell it and move. To where? Anyone’s guess.
Itchy feet are normal in our family.
My mother has lived in New York, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Mexico, England, Toronto, Montreal, Peru, British Columbia; my father in Vancouver, Toronto, Ireland, London and for several years on his boat in Europe.
So I have nowhere to call “home” in the sense of some long-cherished family homestead, nor any expectation of inheriting one.
And longtime Broadside readers know that my husband and I are not close to our families physically or emotionally. Working freelance means those relationships are tenuous and often temporary.
I like living in suburban New York and am always glad to return there, but some of my deepest friendships remain in Toronto, a place where real estate is breathtakingly and punitively expensive, as out of reach for me financially, even after decades of hard work and saving, as Santa Fe, New Mexico is for Jose, my husband, who grew up there and would love to return. My husband’s late father was the minister for a church there — long since torn down and replaced by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
Only a small courtyard and an apricot tree now mark his childhood home.
I joined a local church in 1998 but have not been there much recently, too often feeling out of step with a wealthy and conservative congregation focused on child-raising.
Oddly (or not), these days I most often feel I belong at my local YMCA, as I am there so often for my dance classes and to use the gym. There, I always see people I know and like.
I spent a few minutes in the library here, asking if they have my latest book. They don’t, but the librarian said “I read you!” Which was pleasant.
Then I went to the local convenience store and was thrilled to find my first-ever story in the July 2014 issue of Cosmopolitan.
Sometimes I feel my work, friends and husband are my real home, the place(s) where I belong and always feel valued — not within family or a job or faith community or specific geographical setting.
Where do you belong?