by Jennifer Lang
but neither is it somewhere.
Home was not Chicago or its suburbs, where I went to college and called my mother every February crying that my nostrils had frozen together like Lake Michigan.
Home was not Paris, where I puckered my lips to pronounce basic words like bonjour and au revoir during my junior year abroad and stifled my over-wide, white-toothed American smile while working as a bilingual assistant for a non-profit organization after graduation.
For years, I thought home was lost. Made-up. A figment of my imagination. For decades, I packed and unpacked, on a scavenger hunt in search of it. A four-letter noun we learn to recognize in a second-grade basal reader until we understand its depth and diversity as adjective, adverb, and verb.
Home was not the Judean Hills outside of Jerusalem, where I met and married my French husband, a recent new immigrant to Israel, who already rolled his resh sound and cleared the letter chet from the back of his throat like a ball of phlegm better than me.
Home was not the northern port city of Haifa, where we sealed ourselves into our guest room wearing gas masks during the First Gulf War, me laser-focused on suppressing my gag reflex and faking a we’re-fine for my parents over the static-filled long-distance line, and where, on our third wedding anniversary, we plopped our 48-hour-old baby in front of the television to watch arch enemies Israeli P.M. Rabin and P.L.O. leader Arafat shake hands and sign peace agreements with U.S. president Clinton, me dreaming my son would never have to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces.
Home was not California, where my father and mother and I, and eventually my daughters, were born (1937/1938/1965/1997/1999) and brewed like a cup of Peet’s Coffee, but where my foreign husband felt othered when strangers put accents in all the wrong places, calling him Felipe instead of Philippe.
Home was not a suburb north of New York City, where we moved for his job and where our son hesitated to invite his peers since we didn’t have a PlayStation and my girls begged me to buy a bralette or bolero, shrug or Ugg, like everybody else, making us feel inadequate and giving new meaning to keep up with the Joneses.
Nor was home halfway around the world in a city north of Tel Aviv, where we enrolled our children in public schools during our semi-sabbatical year to show them life beyond the boundaries of the Empire state only to return to Westchester and, three years later and much to our teenagers’ chagrin, uprooted to resettle in Raanana, where the desert sun menaces our fair, freckled skin and our shared religion strangles me like a wool scarf.
Home is not nowhere but neither is it somewhere concrete but rather a concept that Hallmark Cards attempted to impart; home is a surprising part of speech, a preposition, a knowing, quiet peacefulness, alive and breathing—inside, within—where I no longer question where I should be on the planet because, at 55, I’m comfortable with myself and don’t care what anyone else thinks. I am exactly where I belong.
Home is not nowhere but neither is it anywhere.
Photo by Daniel Newman on Unsplash