by J.M. Phillippe
This week, I am writing from home. In this particular case, home is the last home I lived in with my parents – a lovely house with a gorgeous pool in Santa Clarita, California. It has a special place in my heart — I even set my first novel in this town.
But home is a complicated thing for me to define. Whenever I go back to California, I say “I am going back home.” But whenever I go back to Washington, I also say (and feel) “I am going back home.” And of course, whenever I fly back to New York, I very much feel, “I am going home.”
I spent my early childhood in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Then we moved. So I spent my most formative years — middle school through the end of college — in Washington State. Many of my closest friends come from that time and place in my life.
Then I moved back to California and spent my identity-figuring-out years in various places in and around Los Angeles again. My parents bought a house there where I lived (after moving “back home” for a while), and of course all my childhood things — boxed and moved around for decades — reside there.
And then I moved to New York, where I currently live, and built amazing relationships there too.
Every home, of course, shaped me, and continues to shape me. Every place I have lived put its mark — the constant sun of southern California and the heat and deserts; the near-constant grey of Seattle, and the amazing green forests; and the constant noise of New York City, and the density of buildings and people. Home is the Pacific Ocean, but also the Williamsburg Bridge. Home is watching the sunset over the water, toes in the sand. Home is walking a muddy trail among evergreen trees. Home is hard concrete and the constant noise of people everywhere.
But mostly, home is the people in those places, the friends who spent hours in book stores with me, or on hiking trails, or in dance clubs. The family who told me I could do it (even when “it” kept changing), and cheered me on. Home is the conversations that helped me figure out what I believed and who I am.
Still, it feels strange to be back in this particular home, where things are starting to be packed up or given away in anticipation of eventually selling the house. Even though this is not my childhood home, I am having many of those same feelings as I look at shelves emptying and closets cleared out. I am feeling the passing of time, feeling my age. I am going through all the emotions of holding on and letting go (and telling myself that it is okay, better even, to let go).
My head is filling with stories real and imaged — the stories I still tell when I try to tell people about myself and my life, the stories I only remember because I have a photograph or item to anchor them to, the stories that kept me company in each place, and the stories inspired by them.
There are a lot of saying about what home is, but I find myself drawn to this particular one over all the others:
J.M. Phillippe is the author of the novels and the short stories, and . She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a clinical social worker in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free time binge-watching quality TV, drinking cider with amazing friends, and learning the art of radical self-acceptance, one day at a time.