No place like home

My old house is for sale.

Michael and I noticed this while we were walking through Tower Grove South last weekend on our way to the grand opening of The Civil Life microbrewery. The route took us past my old street, and my house, the fourth down from the corner on the right, had a for-sale sign in the front yard. On the way back home, suitably fortified with a few pints of Jake’s best brews, I pedaled past to take a closer look and noticed that apart from the porch being painted a different color and new plantings in the flowerbeds, not much looked different.

Michael’s a real estate hawk, so naturally he found it right away on Zillow and sent me the link. Inside, the rooms were painted different colors, and of course the furniture was different, and out back the new owner had put in a nice new patio, made the porch into a three-season room and painted the garage a really nice sage green.

There aren’t many places I’ve lived that I miss. I don’t miss any of my childhood homes, nor most of my apartments in college or afterwards. There was one above Boone Tavern in Columbia that I had briefly after graduation while I was looking for my first real job. I barely had furniture to fill any of the rooms, but it was a corner unit on a downtown street, where I could look outside and see the crowd gathering in front of the Blue Note before a show. I don’t suppose I lived there long enough to miss it, just long enough to wish I’d lived there while I was actually in college, because it was a cool location and closer to campus. In hindsight, I probably would have spent too much time going out instead of doing homework.

I also had what I like to consider the only cheap apartment in Clayton, a nice suburb just outside the St. Louis city limits. It was a corner unit also, with the front windows facing a courtyard and the bedroom windows facing a huge tree where crows liked to perch (not so much fun when you want to sleep past seven thirty on a Saturday morning, but pretty all the same). It had the holy grail of apartment living: free garage parking. It was also within walking distance of the Library, Ltd., a venerable independent bookstore that unfortunately sold out to Borders in the late ’90s and eventually got knocked down to make way for Centene’s office tower. Ah, progress.

Those were rentals, though. The house in Tower Grove South was all mine. Well, it was mostly the credit union’s, but it was just me and the cats—and eventually, the dog. I think it was the first place I lived where I felt like a proper adult, and looking at the pictures in the online real estate listing, I was surprised to feel a fleeting sense of nostalgia for it. It was an old house, and it had its issues, but it had character.

I spend a lot of time writing about home in my stories. At first it wasn’t conscious, and maybe it still isn’t. I know that it’s a recurring theme with me, though, so I know to look out for it. It comes from growing up in a military family and moving around a lot, a habit that I carried into my early adulthood.

It’s still a nebulous concept for me, the idea of having someplace to consider yourself rooted. What does home mean to you?

9 thoughts on “No place like home

    • I hear that a lot from people who move to New Orleans. Me, I’m kind of torn between the Pacific Northwest and London. They’re both places where I feel at home.

  1. A kitchen where I love cooking. My friends’ art on the walls. Books. A comfy reading chair. Put all of those in one space and I’ll think of it as home. Oh. And add wine liberally.

  2. Army brat: Home is wherever I am. There’s no hometown. No place to feel nostalgic about that still has family and a house tied to that family. Even after my father retired, my parents kept moving. After my father died, my mother lived in 20 different apartments/houses in 23 years.

    I always explore “home” in my fiction, trying to understand what other people might feel. The city I love: Tuscaloosa. But the longest I’ve ever lived in any one city is Houston, and any house–this one, since 1995. I still can’t believe it’s been that long. We have our dachshunds’ ashes which were meant to be spread in our flower beds, but I can’t, because there’s always an anxiety that I may one day have to move again. I don’t think military kids ever lose that.

  3. How did I miss this, I moved a lot with my jobs and with my mom, and I never really minded. I’ve always felt like a gypsy, and it’s never bothered me. Then I came to New Orleans, sometimes I am still surprised that I am lucky enough to live here. I once wrote that you either find your home or your home finds you, and New Orleans found me. I live in in a grand house, I love Dr H., For the first time since I was a little girl my neighbors know me and we talk etc … I love it. So this is my home, and maybe one day I will get that wanderlust – sometimes I think that economically I would fare better elsewhere — but I’m not ready yet. New Orleans is our home.

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