When I get a few days with my parents (it only happens three or four times a year), the conversation always turns earnest fairly quickly. So I wasn’t much surprised when my mom laid down this question during a casual radiator-seat chat last Friday: “These days, where do you feel the most comfortable?”
It’s something I’ve thought about myself recently—the curious concept of home and what it means when you’ve lived somewhere long enough to have just the twitching beginning of roots, but the people you love the most are still miles and miles away. Is home where the heart is? Where the boyfriend is? Or where the sweet red couch I bought on Craigslist is? And when those are three different places, is anywhere really home?
I used to boast about how I felt more me the moment the plane touched down in Boston. I walked faster, absorbed more, felt more alive in the city that I’d grown up in but had left before I had the chance to fully appreciate it as an adult. This time, I exited the plane into an unfamiliar terminal (E) and stumbled to the curb in an all-day travel stupor. I spent most of the weekend in Kendall Square, Cambridge, a neighborhood I’ve never known well and still don’t. I had to use Google Maps to choose a route for my run and even ask for directions while driving friends home. It was the first time that “home” has felt less than, well, homey.
But there were moments of comfort, too, with the people who’ve always made Boston home and the places that hold deep, embedded memories that I forget about until they’re right in front of me again. White Mountain Creamery still smells like sweet, rich, freshly churned ice cream; the North End still vibrates with cranky townies, wide-eyed tourists and the hungry energy of waiters hoping to make a buck. When my mom popped the question, the answer I gave surprised us both: Vegas. Four days later, Boston may not have taken over, but she was definitely back in the race.