Monday, July 13, 2009

where the heart is...

Since my return up north for the summer, I have been considering the subject of “home.” What exactly is it? Where is it? Is it “where the hat is”? And if it is, as some say, it’s where the heart is, can the heart live in more than one place?

I’m not sure I know the answer, but I am sure that many folks surely have the same questions. Well, fairly sure. OK, so maybe I’m among the few who bother to think about these things. So sue me.

Regular readers of this space are aware I feel deep connections to several places separated by both time and space.

When I travel back to Syosset, Long Island, the Nassau County neighborhood where I came of age, there is indeed a sense of homecoming. It is a static homecoming, set in the 1950-60s and viewed through childhood eyes. My brain tends to screen out changes and emotions are stirred—egged on, I’m sure by the loss than comes as we age.

The pieces written on my time here in Rye, NY (see: what I did on my summer vacation, August 21, 2008 and return to Rye, June 11, 2009.) also touch on my youth, on the summers spent in the Catskills. Another visceral connection. A decided chunk of my heart is home amid the cool green mountains of New York.

Then there is the Jersey Shore, where I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life, where I raised my children, did my best work. I can get so gut wrenchingly homesick for the sights and smells of the place, it drives me nuts. But unless my children are with me for a “down the shore” foray, Point Pleasant, the actual town in which we lived holds little sway. I am somehow more connected to the neighboring town of Point Pleasant Beach, perhaps because it has both a real downtown and the boardwalk where much time was passed. And maybe it’s because my house of 40 years was stripped of its uniqueness by its new owners. I avoid going down that street now.

But this year, something weird hit me. I feel the most at home in a place I have never lived. How can that be? That place is Red Bank, where a best friend puts me up every summer. I walk downtown for coffee, which I drink outside at a café table. The view is identical to the photo on my home computer. From there, I easily travel to walk the Spring Lake or Point Beach boards and to visit others. And the hospital, a short walk from my friend’s home, has a dynamite view of the Navasink River from it’s café. Having lived across from the Manasquan River for decades, I love watching the action on a river.

Sadly, the one place I still do not feel at home is where I’ve lived for the past 7 plus years—Sarasota, Fl. I wish I could will myself to feel that sense of belonging that comes with being “at home.” In moving so far from all I know, alone, I acted against type, gambling it would shake up my moribund life for the better. The best I can say right now is that the jury is still out. I am better at hanging on to old connections that making new ones.

It surprises people—even those who know me fairly well—that my apparent extroverted nature is severely tempered by an introverted soul. I dislike parties, crowds and find it difficult to join things. When I first moved, I went to some social mixer-type things, simply looking for friends of either sex. I even went on one date. It was excruciatingly boring and painful.

The first two people I hit it off with, moved away. I do work with good folk and will return in the fall, once again, with determination to reach out some more, somehow. Yes, I’m well aware the fault is in me, not the place. I realized recently that I am much more comfortable as an observer, rather than a participant, so finding my way to journalism makes perfect sense.

I also tend have a tendency to blend into the lives of my friends instead of building my own—sounds a bit like a book concept. You know, a woman who lives her life by shuttling from one friend’s home to another, adopting and adapting to their lifestyles before moving on. Oh my, how hollow is that!

Whoa, this piece has taken an unsettlingly whiney turn. Enough of this.

Billy Joel, the voice of my Long Island youth has his own take on the subject as he sings:

Well I never had a place that I could call my very own.
That's all right, my love, 'cause you're my home...You're my castle, you're my cabin and my instant pleasure dome.I need you in my house 'cause you're my home.

A decidedly romantic, but methinks very dangerous concept of “home”.

Perhaps the simplest answer:
When someone asks “where are you from,” what’s your first response?

1 comment:

carol said...

Home is Point Pleasant - and like you - it's Point Beach that I am connected to. But the place where I feel complete peace come over me is my childhood summer home on Long Island. I am so lucky to still have it, even though it is half falling down. Best of all, my daughter and her daughter feel the same way about it as I do and as my mother and her mother did. It pleases me that the tradition will continue. It's the one place on earth we prefer to be - in the summer. Funny that my daughter grew up down the shore, but prefers the LI bungalow.