My life tends to be a series of the same things: working, cooking, cleaning, hanging out with my daughter, blogging. You know—the usual “eat, sleep, repeat” routine. A friend of mine always jokes that maybe one day, when asked what I’m up to, I’ll finally say something other than, “The usual.” While I do find (or am learning to find) comfort in my everyday routine, it’s always nice to have something to look forward to.
And this week, I did have something wonderful to look forward to: I was going on vacation. And that vacation involved going back to the place I still call home—Toledo, Ohio.
I find it kind of funny that I still call Toledo home. Growing up, we moved frequently and Toledo was the fourth city that I lived in, and I only lived there for 4 years, to boot. But it’s the place I go when I say I’m going back home. One might think that since I’ve lived in Colorado for almost 15 years now that I’d bestow that term to this beautiful, sun-filled state, but I really don’t. I’ve always felt a little out of place here, never escaping the term “transplant.”
As my upcoming trip got closer, the more and more I thought about the concept of home. Why was it that out of all the places I’ve lived, Toledo feels the most like home? In an effort to help fuel my thoughts on the subject, I reached out to my friends via Facebook and asked a simple question:
“When you think of the word ‘home,’ what’s the first thing that comes to mind?”
I loved watching the answers start rolling in. They ranged from states and pets and familiar foods to smells and feelings and people. Knowing everything I’ve learned about nostalgia, I wasn’t surprised to see that so many of my friends seemed to have specific memories evoked by this question: the smell of their father’s cigars, the taste of pineapple-upside-down-cake, the scent of laundry dried outside on a clothesline, the sound of their mother’s voice. Although these memories and feelings and thoughts weren’t my own, I felt a connection with them.
But when I stepped back and looked at all the answers as a whole, I noticed a common theme—the majority of them involved the family. And all at once, I knew why Toledo was synonymous with the word home for me.
Zoey and I weren’t visiting Toledo for the lovely weather (because let’s face it: overcast seems to be the perpetual forecast there), we were going there to see two of the most important people in my—and my daughter’s—life: my parents.
Despite not having a terribly deep connection with Toledo as a town, I have strong associations with it, and my parents remain at the core of those memories. When we moved there, I was entering my freshman year of high school, and to say I wasn’t terribly pleased with the fact another job transfer was taking me away from all my friends in Nashville would be a pretty big understatement. I ended up at an all-girls Catholic high school that filtered in students from various middle schools—which meant that groups of friends were already established, and I struggled to find a place where I felt like I belonged.
I eventually found an amazing core group of friends, but until that point, the place I truly felt relaxed and happy was at home with my parents. My brother was already in college, so it was just the three of us. We’re pretty simple people, never needing much to have a good time, and we settled into a routine that—at its most basic level—involved spending copious amounts of time with one another. I’ve always adored my folks, so to me, this was a perfectly fine scenario. Not many people wax poetic about the times the spent they hanging out with their mom and dad on Friday nights when they were 15, but I am one of them. I have wonderful, nostalgic memories of popping popcorn and curling up on the couch so we could all watch the X-Files together. My dad—with his perfectly loving and slight OCD tendencies—would attend to my mom and me, catering to our every need. He get us drinks or, if it was winter, make a fire or fill up hot water bottles to keep us warm. He had a hard time relaxing, so the line “just sit down” was one repeated frequently in our house.
And when my dad was traveling, which was fairly often, it was just my mom and me. The time that we spent together forged a relationship that bound our hearts together at a level I didn’t think was possible to have between a parent and child (until I had my own daughter, of course). My mom and I aren’t just mother and daughter—we are friends, and the best of ones at that.
I can give you a list of the reasons why I think Toledo is a great place to vacation, but they all really have nothing to do with Northwest Ohio. They have everything to do with the people there—my people. Those reasons have everything to do with the way that my heart feels when I’m surrounded with the love of my supportive, amazing parents, ones who do whatever it takes to make me happy.
So later this week, when my parents take us to the airport and we board the plane to go back home—the Colorado one where Zoey and I live—I can guarantee that there will be plenty of tears shed, by all of us. But although Zoey and I will fly away, we won’t completely be leaving them.
Pieces of us will stay behind, both in the memories that were made and in the laughter, good conversation, and love that we all shared. And as someone who in a bit of a limbo state in her life, I will find comfort that home—as it seems to be with most of my friends— isn’t so much about the places that once held or currently hold us, it’s about the people that we get to call our own.
For me, home is what I feel when I see my dad’s outstretched hand waving to me at the airport. Home is the feeling of my mom’s welcoming arms wrapped around me. Home is the taste of a beloved childhood meal made with love (and lots and lots of cheese). Home is the the sound of our late-night conversations and the comfort found in the silence of just being able to be. Home is Zoey’s voice as she squeals, “Mommy!” after not seeing me for a few days. It is what I feel in her hugs, what I hear in her constant chatter that creates the soundtrack to our days, and what I see when I look at her sweet face.
Home is celebrating the past with people I love, and creating new and wonderful memories with them—today and every day.
I have a feeling that one day, I will probably end up in a place that finally feels like home. But until then, I will find home in the arms, the hands, the eyes, the faces, and the hearts of the people I love. When we are together, I will savor the moments we share, and when we part, I may be sad, but I will be excited for the next time we get to see each other again. And that is a very hopeful thing, knowing that I’ll always look forward to going home, wherever it may be.
Let us know: Where do you find “home”? What do you think of when you think of the word “home”?
Week 12 Suggested Viewing
More and more people worldwide are living in countries not considered their own. Writer Pico Iyer—who himself has three or four “origins”—meditates on the meaning of home, the joy of traveling and the serenity of standing still in his thought-provoking Ted Talk, Where is Home?
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At the Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.