Around about May, I start looking wistfully at the calendar and wondering when fall will get here. Now that it’s August in St. Louis, I think about nothing more than how much I’d like to be someplace else.
And blizzards. I think about blizzards.
I’ve tried to acclimate to the Gateway City. Really, I have. Even though I’ve been here for nearly nineteen years, however, my roots have never gone deep, and I think a strong breeze could pull me up and send me aloft. It’s no coincidence that my first novel is about a man taking a road trip. While it has a host of problems (conservative as a motherfucker, racial stratification, provincial character, lackluster job market, Phyllis Schlafly), there are many things to recommend it (low cost of living, abundant free cultural institutions, green spaces galore). Of course, the biggest thing to recommend it at the moment is Michael. Fortunately, he’s portable, but his roots go deeper here. And so we stay. For now.
Still, home it isn’t. If it’s not here, then where is it?
This is the question I keep coming back to the same way Dakota keeps going back to his favorite chew toy. I’m drawn to it because it’s always there, which means I haven’t found a good answer for it. It should be an easy question: home is wherever you were born or wherever you live now. Right? I was born in a place we left before I was a year old, and in between then and now there have been a handful of cities in almost as many states. Since I moved to St. Louis in 1992, I’ve lived in four apartments and two houses. Clearly, there’s a restless nature at work here.
How much does the place you come from play into your sense of identity? If your answer is “very little,” here’s another question: how many places have you lived in your life? If the answer is “one,” imagine that home is a variable instead of a constant. What about you would change if you couldn’t answer, “I’m from X”?
Here’s another question: if the place you call home is not the place where you were born or grew up, how long have you lived there? How did you come to live there: Because you went to college there? Did a job bring you there? Or did you visit at some point and feel drawn to it in a way you couldn’t explain?
The other possibility—the one I don’t think is quite correct—is St. Louis is home and I am just resisting that for some reason—and no, I don’t think my resistance is just on account of the weather (though heaven knows, it could be reason enough). I’ve lived here almost half my life, and I’m beginning to think that’s just about enough.