Monday, August 15, 2011

Home: Hat-hanging and Picture-hanging

Home is the sailor from the sea,
The hunter from the hill.
-A.E. Housman, "Home is the Sailor"

friendBrian, who has been studying in London for some time, is gearing up to head back to the States, and saddening at all the things he will miss, or never got round to, in his time there. But, in trying not to wallow, he reminded himself that "Life is a whole tapestry of things that are home." cue: A girl named Zelda's brain starts whirring.

When I was a wily young college student, I had a routine whenever I moved into a new dorm. It was called "attacking the walls." Okay, it was actually just me hauling out pictures that made me happy, either candid photographs, postcards of paintings, posters, or particularly pretty ads for plays that I like. I would then proceed to cover up nearly every inch of white with said pictures (speaking of tapestries). I always restricted said decorating to my half of the dorm room, and would leave space open, knowing I would continue to contribute to the collage as the year went on. It was my way of branding the room, making it mine, and declaring it home - at least for nine months. When May came back around, I would carefully remove all pictures and store them until I returned to campus in September.

Part of this compulsion to claim the wall came from my trying to fight the pestering temporary feeling of everything. Though I grew up most of my life in the same house, twice over the course of two years I moved across the country (once out to Los Angeles, and then two years later back to Virginia). Which, in my amateurish self-psychoanalyzing way, I have decided means that there's a lingering thought underneath everything that, wherever I am, "I won't be here for very long."

So my wall collages were a way to try and say that at least while I was in any of these dorms, I was there and that was my base. But it was never quite Home.

Okay, we've found the point of this entry [editor's note: by the way, hi! sorry I've been absent from the blogosphere for over a month. but I'm back now!]: what is Home?

There's the cliche, "Home is where you hang your hat," which sounds to me more like the place where you just stop on any given night - you can hang your hat in a hotel room (sidenote: I had a teacher once who did the same thing I do, pasting pictures up on his wall - but he'd do it whenever he was traveling, so I imagine he irritated his hotel cleaning staff). There's the Sondheim rejoinder to that cliche, "And that is where you hang your spouse" ... that's satire, I don't need to address that.

Mr. Frost gets closer to the truth, for me, with "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in." For me, anyway, a big part of what Home is, is where my family is. My mom's house, my dad's house, my grandparents' house, my sister's condo - all of these are home because all of these places are safe. Yes, this is because I have a wonderful family with whom I feel safe and loved. But I think that really is the foundation of home for me - a place you feel you belong, a place you feel safe, a place that fits.

Which, by the way, is really hard to come by in New York.  This is a city for misfits (literally; we don't fit anywhere, but New York is our best shot), and half of us flit around so much we're barely home. Bobby, a roving NYC bachelor in the musical Company, says "I mean I've always liked my apartment but I'm never really in it. I just seem to pass through the living room on my way to the bedroom to go to the bathroom to get ready to go out again" (George Furth). Not to mention that with rent hikes, people keep relocating, trying to find that elusive affordable Manhattan apartment (or maybe that's just me). But I think knowing that makes me work all the harder to make wherever I currently live as safe a cave as I can. This city can be overwhelming and busy and LOUD. I need a calming base. So with each new apartment, I try and make myself a Home.

(That being said, I no longer turn my walls into giant collages. But as time goes by, little bits of memory here and there do get hung up or pasted up around the room.)

1 comment:

  1. I think I was going to say more substantive and appreciative about this post, but got distracted when I looked up from my laptop and saw a giant collage of photographs, train tickets, restaurant business cards, and maps.

    Hmm. Is this a home? It's all getting packed up in the next 5 days anyhow. Is home something we (basically) give ourselves? Darn it. Shouldn't have looked up.