Redefining “Home”

I’ve always referred to trips back to Michigan as “going home,” but having spent the better part of my post-grad adult life in New York, it would only seem logical to adjust my rhetoric. But sometimes logic evades me.

For many, the whole concept of “home” is one that conjures up warm, fuzzy feelings. My frame of reference is a bit more jagged, marked with memories of chaos and dysfunction. And, for whatever reason, I keep going back for more.

As the youngest of four children, and the only one who has made the conscious and concrete decision not to move back to Michigan, you’d think I’d embrace the distance. But I don’t, really. I talk to my mom multiple times per day by phone and FaceTime, and over the course of nearly a decade, have fallen into an equally familiar routine with my siblings that keeps us close.

Our dynamic has shifted — and in some cases suffered — over the years. We’ve each had the opportunity to develop personally and professionally, far from the forced comparisons and competition of our childhood. Can you imagine 4 kids, within 5 1/2 years of each other, all with names that begin with the letter “A”? We’ve made it through multiple moves and milestones, mostly unscathed, and in some cases, closer.

My oldest sister recently took on the project of digitizing a bevy of VHS cassettes from our childhood. The videos make it a bit easier to reminisce; times were simpler (read: no social media, huge cell phones without texting, toys that didn’t connect to the cloud). The drama was still there, but it was generational. And now, it seems, it’s finally reached us.

When Thanksgiving starts to creep up on my calendar, I start embracing holiday movies. Each year, I flip-flop between watching classics like Home Alone, Father of the Bride, and Love Actually — with one or two Nancy Meyers movies thrown in for good measure — but the real star of the show is Home for the Holidays. There’s something charming and now painfully relatable about it. The chemistry between Claudia (Holly Hunter) and her siblings ebbs and flows, while she navigates the reality — read: quirks — of going home for the holidays. There’s an agonizing charm about her parents (the beloved, late Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning) — she falls into a child-like routine that she resents while under their roof, but there’s still that certain cozy comfort that really only comes from being with your parents.

I experienced this for this first time when I was home for Thanksgiving last week. My mom and I spent only a brief bit of time together, but it was like time stood still and I was a kid again.

I’m not sure that “home” is defined by a physical place on a map, so much as it is a place where you feel something between content and safe. For me, that’s Michigan.

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