Yesterday I returned to Amsterdam, where I live and work and where my husband is: it is home. I had spent a week in the U.S., first in New York where my father and brother live, where I stayed in the house I grew up in, and slept in my childhood bedroom and ate at my favorite local pizzeria: it is home. I traveled to Boston, where I stayed in the house my husband and I own, and I spent time with friends I’ve had for decades, and visited my sister and her family, and ate at my favorite local sandwich shop: it is home.
“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than a magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.”
– Charles Dickens
Living abroad – and then returning to where I left – has made me think more about “home”, and how I define it, and where I find it. I had not expected to go back to the U.S. until Christmas time, but when the opportunity was offered, it seemed like the right thing to do. There were practical considerations: I could return with things we needed (including, critically, my road bike), I could finalize packing lists for things we plan to ship. But beyond that, it just felt right to go back “home” for a little while. Our process of settling in and getting adjusted is generally going well, and my husband and I are both happy here. Still, there is no substitute for time with family, for friends who get your jokes, for people who know and love you just as you are.
And yet…as good as it was to be back, to be surrounded by the familiar, there was still a part of me that felt somehow…out of sorts. I had no illusions about life going on without me there – I knew that my colleagues and coworkers, my friends and family would go on about their lives after I moved. As my dad’s been telling me for years, “Roosevelt died and the world went on…no one is indispensable!”. But I found myself anxious to get back to Amsterdam, back to my husband and our apartment and the life of the city. I felt split between these many places, in spite of a desire to be fully present at each stop along the way.
It is early in the long course of this adventure, and I obviously still have much to learn about home, about holding places in my heart and in my attention and balancing them, somehow. I suspect this is not something that only affects those of us living abroad…there are many ways to leave a home, or to find one, or to live in between. For readers who have experience with this, I’d value your perspective and wisdom. How do you live fully in the place(s) you call home?