Home Is Where the Heart Is

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to go “home” since so many of my graduate school friends do just that.  When they ask if I’m going “home” for the holidays I don’t quite know how to answer them.  Albuquerque IS home. At least for now.

Friends walk into my home and say it’s comfortable, it feels like a home: my furniture matches, I have framed pictures on the wall, it’s cozy, I have a fireplace…..  in other words, not your typical grad school digs filled with shabby chic craigslist finds, hand-me-downs and books (though I do have a ton of books scattered throughout my house).

Maybe part of creating your own home is growing up.   I’m older than most of my fellow students, though I’m not the oldest! (thanks Lucy! thanks Linda! thanks Rick!).  My parents and both sets of grandparents are gone, so that leaves wherever I am as “home.”

jenns-heartThey say home is where the heart is…  I can’t say that my heart is here in New Mexico, but my body is, and having grown up in a military family, moving every couple of years, you learn to make home where your body is though you may have left your heart somewhere else.  Sometimes it takes a while for your mind to catch up.  And sometimes, though you may leave parts of your heart in many places, you also bring those  places with you, into your heart. In a sense those places become a part of your heart.

Left Ventrical: San DiegoSanDiegoBeachBaby copy
While there are many things I don’t like about California, like the high cost of living and still unatainable housing market, not to mention the pretentiousness and the plethora of plastic surgeons and “medical” spas, and the sometimes feeling that I’m not __________ enough; the good outweighs the bad.Part of me grew up there.  I have friends there, including a fantastic community of writers.  My job is there as well.  I miss going IN to the office. I miss shooting the breeze with my boss, and joshing with my coworkers and talking to customers on the phone.  And I miss the ocean.  I miss the salty air filling my lungs; I miss riding my boogie board, or body surfing. I miss walking on the shore at sunset.  I even miss walking up that hill at Torrey Pines State Beach.

I’d say I miss my sister, but she recently moved to Chicago.

Right Ventrical: Chicago


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Last time my sister moved to Chicago, I followed her ten years later. This time I am hoping that before the next ten years is up, she’ll have moved back to San Diego.Don’t get me wrong, I love Chicago.  It’s a fantastic city.  Theater! Art! Public sculpture! Public transportation! The lake!  But the lake is not the ocean, no matter how big it is.

It’s an exciting and vibrant city. They even have weather…   maybe too much weather.

Superior Vena Cava: Hawaii7-5-2010_029
Part of me grew up in Hawaii on the main island, Oahu.  It was only four years when I was in elementary school.  I learned to recite the state motto:  Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono, The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness. I could repeat it by rote, like the Hawaiian alphabet, but it is only now that understand it.   The life of the land, the spirit of the land, the connection to the land is indefinite, lasting, perpetual, and justifiable.

Whenever I return there is a sense of being home. I feel it in my skin; the air is moist and the breezes are cool. Sunsets envelop the sea air. This is where my best family memories were made:  picnics at the beach, family dinners; hula dancing, ukulele lessons; my mom did not have cancer.

Inferior Vena Cava: Virginia

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My grandma grew up in a southern Virginia in a small town called Sedley.  It is the home of Hubs Peanuts, and to many cousins, to second and third cousins twice removed and so on;  I don’t know most of them.  The town boasts a mill pond, a peanut factory, a small store or two, a few churches and a fire station.  It’s mostly a farming town.

I spent part of my youth in a northern Virginia town near Washington DC called Vienna.  My mother died there.  I graduated high school there, spending most weekends cruising with my friend Pam back and forth between the McDonalds on one end of town and 7-11 on the other smoking cigarettes and drinking rum and cokes.   And chasing boys.

My parents and one set of grandparents are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  Other relatives are buried in the Sedley cemetery.

Left Atrium: Aptos, CAmaryk-bill
My Aunt Mary K and my Uncle Bill live in this seaside town just south of Santa Cruz.  Our family has spent many holidays in their warm little house set at the edge of second growth redwood forest.

Bill is my father’s brother, he and Mary K– for as long as I can remember– have lived in Northern California, but my earliest memory is when they came to San Diego to visit.  I’m pretty sure there was a trip to Sea World involved, and I know my aunt Mary K had made me a stuffed animal frog. I was five or six. I can still picture that frog in my mind’s eye, soft and floppy, made of dark green felt with lime green spots and big eyes.The last time I saw them was for my sister’s 50th birthday party in Chicago this summer past.

Right Atrium: Portland, ORkatie-casey
My cousin Katie and her husband Casey live in Portland. I’ve not spent a lot of time in the city with them, but spent many family holidays together.One time, before they were married, I drove to Portland from San Diego. Katie had bought my sister’s jeep and I was delivering it. I spent a few nights in Katie’s place where her roommate grew marijuana in the basement; I think the fumes made me high…

Pulmonary artery: Albuquerque, NM

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When friends ask how I like Albuquerque I usually answer that it’s okay.  I don’t mean that in a bad way.  I don’t love it and I don’t hate it.   I’m sure that a part of my heart is already here. I purchased my first house here, and published my first short story here.  I’ve seen sandhill cranes, prairie dogs, wild mountain lilies, and the most vibrant sunset of my life.

By the time I leave a little part of ‘Burque will have worked its way into my heart.  I’ll have made lasting friendships, earned an MFA degree, and completed the first draft of my book.

And I’ve seen roadrunners in my own front yard.