During a recent phone conversation with my sister, when I mentioned my hope that hopefully my husband and I will have some part of our lives rooted at 'home' within the next few years, my sister interrupted me, asking me where I think 'home' is.  "You've moved so many times, I just can't imagine where you feel like home is."  I was startled by the question; it's clear to me that I consider Minnesota home.  It made me wonder if what is in my head is not accurately conveyed to the outside world.

I wondered how she would define home, and it got me thinking about my own definition.  I felt a list forming in my head of specific descriptors and conditions, none of which are necessarily: "Home is where you live right now."

A place is home when it is where you feel comfortable keeping your stuff.  A place is home if you think you might want to spend a good portion of your free time there.  A place might be home if you have some combination of friends and family there.  A place is home when thinking of it makes you feel viscerally that you want to be there...you can smell it, hear it and see it.  If you're me, your eyes might also fill with tears sometimes when those thoughts occur.  A place could be home if you feel that the taxes you pay enhance the quality of your life.  A place is home if you care about crime in the community.  When you are home, you may want to know your neighbors and you probably notice the news.  You might want to get involved and help the community.  A place might be home if you feel sad when you have to leave.  A place is home if it feels familiar.  You want to build a life in a place that feels like home.

I have felt bits and pieces of the above conditions in Louisiana and Calgary, but never all of those things, all at the same time, or with any convincing strength.  I have always loved to travel, but now when I leave Minnesota, I become sad and ornery and I feel dread.  I succumb to strange shopping urges, buying inconsequential items that remind me of home, products which if I still lived there, I would hardly notice.  I look at real estate in Minnesota and feel longing, while in Calgary I feel grateful to not be tied to a house.

In Calgary, I have a few friends, and things feel a little bit familiar.  I don't mind spending a little bit of free time here, although mostly just inside the apartment with my books and sewing stuff.  I live here in blissful ignorance of the lives of my neighbors and I care not at all for the local politics.  It's kind of peaceful and easy to be that disconnected, but there is also a nagging sensation of time passing and of financial and emotional resources spent in a place that we may never see again after we move.

I watched my parents care for two homes for much of my life.  It was a lot of work and it required certain decisions and sacrifices.  At times I thought it was silly of them to work so hard and to try to live in two places...it seemed that they were worn out from it sometimes.  Eventually I concluded that they should pick one; conserve their energy.  I said I would never choose that path.  I have come to realize now that when I say "never", the very thing that previously struck me me as out of the question becomes at some point necessary.

Maybe home is what you gives you strength to face the most ridiculous things that the universe can imagine for you.  For the moment, my husband will continue to work far from home, and we will continue to scheme about ways that we can live both with his work and in a place that feels like home.