no home but ~

My earliest memories are set in a three-bedroom home in twenty acres of rolling green foothills of the Catskill mountains.

My childhood was snowy winters sledding down enormous hillsides, brilliant orange autumns and the smell of crab-apple trees, springtime exploring the forest, summertime falling into rivers. It was as if it were taken straight out of a Calvin and Hobbes comic, except the comic didn’t show Calvin’s mom and dad screaming themselves hoarse at each other every night.

My parents divorced when I was only five, so I couldn’t have lived there full-time for more than a couple years. I would return only for some summer and winter school breaks after the divorce. Yet that house seems like the “home” of my childhood. No matter where life took me, I felt I would always be glad to return to that place. I can remember it so vividly I could probably draw a fairly accurate map of all twenty acres as well as a floorplan of the house.

My father held onto the house and property after he moved away, intending to give it to me when I wanted it. A few years ago, after he asked once again, I told him to go ahead and sell it. My life and career wouldn’t allow me back to that place anytime soon, if ever.

I spent most of my adult life in rented apartments. The walls were always bare. I never changed the paint, never hung photos or posters. Why go to the trouble of decorating someone else’s property when I’d just have to take it down again in several months? They’d probably even keep some of the deposit if I dare to put a nail in the wall.

I’m now a homeowner. It’s supposed to be more economical than renting, but I have my doubts. It’s also something that many of my peers, and colleagues younger than me, may probably never do. It’s a luxury.

I don’t feel for the house that I own anything like I felt for the house where I grew up. I don’t like the weather. I don’t feel like there is anything permanent here, despite the thirty-year mortgage and accelerated accumulation of stuff.

There’s also no snow, and the mountains that I am lucky to be able to see are at least an hour away. I have failed to give my kid the awesome privilege that I had of walking out the back door straight into the forest.

(Then again, he will never have to endure memories of screaming parents beating the shit out of each other his whole life either. So maybe he’s not, in sum, worse off.)

There’s a strange numb ache in my heart when I think about “home.” Not a painful one. It’s a little tingle where the sadness and loss would be, if I hadn’t cauterized them away years ago.

This sense of impermanence seems like just another part of adulthood that one must simply accept. It hurts at first, but there’s no way around it, so you just build up scar tissue and get used to it.

I want to have back that early childhood feeling of permanence and belonging.

If things go my way – if I’m very fortunate – maybe I’ll find a large-ish plot of land in the foothills of some mountain where it’s cold and snowy enough for me in the wintertime, yet (somehow) where it’s warm and sunny enough for my wife in the summer. Maybe I’ll have saved up enough to buy that land and design and build my ideal small house on it, nestled deep into the trees.

Would I feel “home” again?

Would I be happy?