going “home”, part one

five days, and at least as many blog posts. This one has to be written as sort of a prequel to the next one.
The children of some of the missionaries that I work with were part of an awesome missionary kid video titled, “Where’s home?” This is supposedly a malady that is unique to third-culture kids (TCK’s), but I suspect that most of us struggle with this question in some shape or form.
For me, “home” is a loaded word, not just because of my ongoing (and perhaps irrational) fear of homelessness, but because I don’t feel like I really HAVE a place that is truly “home”. I’m pretty sure that it’s not “normal” to ring the doorbell when you get to your parents’ house, but maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know–I have no point of reference with which to compare it.
If I had the kind of money available to me that would allow me to stay in hotels, things would be much easier. Especially because I actually noticed something like THREE hotels on Staten Island when I was there this time. (two of them actually REAL hotels, if you can believe that!) But instead, every time I head “home”, I am faced with the stress of trying to figure out where I will lay my head. Max’s place, for the most part, is the most “convenient”, particularly if I’m doing most of my visiting with folks in the city, but I still feel slightly uncomfortable and slightly nervous. What if I break something?! What if I’m too loud? It helps that they are no longer living in a 450-square-foot place where I am right underfoot, but I still feel slightly “in the way”.
If I have to stay in Staten Island, things are worse. I basically have three choices:
1) Stay with my brother in the house I grew up in. There are two problems with this; well, maybe it’s more like one problem that has two facets to it. a) my mother is there, and I really have nothing to say to the woman. If I stay there, I have to be civil to her. I managed to go more than ten years without saying a word to her, and have since really only spoken to her briefly when I’ve been visiting my brother, or at funerals. Last year, I spent one night there, and realized right away that I wasn’t eager to do that again ANYTIME soon. the b) is that staying in that house requires that I stay in the bedroom I spent the first eighteen years of my life in, which in itself is just über-creepy. The memories are bad enough, but the horrific “early American” decorating style, barely changed in the last thirty years, does not help matters at all. Nor does the far wall in the front porch area, the spot where my piano once stood before my mother had my brother take an ax and a chainsaw to it because my father wasn’t moving it out of the house quickly enough after the divorce.
2) Stay at my dad and stepmother’s house. Hmm. I am not sure I have yet considered this to be an option. This is the house in which, two weeks after I had first moved out, the room that had been mine was being referred to as “the spare room”. The three years that I spent living there were awkward and uncomfortable, and I did everything–from getting out of the shower to opening/closing my closet doors–wrong. It seems to me that, even if it was offered (and I think there was an offer when my paternal grandmother died), that the ghosts of that place would haunt me just as badly as the ghosts of my former house would, even though the length of time spent in the latter place was far less.
3) Sue’s house . . . ah, Sue . . . an old, dear friend whose “kitchen feels more like home than your own” . . . although I always feel uncertain, and although I feel like a “bad friend” for showing up at random intervals after not staying in touch, staying at Sue’s house is still always safer than staying with my “family” . . . and if I have to stay in Staten Island (which I avoid, even to the point of driving through the night so as to have one less evening’s lodging to worry about), it’s Sue’s house that I normally gravitate towards. The last time I spent the night there, we had only an hour to talk, and yet it was, as the old cliché goes, as if no time had passed. We had a million things to talk about . . . she was glad to see me . . . I was welcome there.
I don’t expect to feel comfortable or “welcome” in the home of another. I actually am quite frightened of staying overnight with just about anybody, even my “safe” people, because of that fear of doing the wrong thing, using the wrong towel, being a burden, being in the way.
Which leads us to our next blog entry . . . about unexpected hospitality, about feeling welcome, feeling loved. Stay tuned!

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