After growing up as a Third Culture Kid in an Army family and then living in several states and countries as an adult, I have moved enough times to know that home does not have to be a physical place. I’ve written about this idea before, and the more I move, the more I find myself able to make a home wherever I live. In fact, it’s been rare that the places where I’ve lived have not, at some point, begun to feel like home. And in one particular instance, that feeling extends even to a place where I’ve never lived.
Earlier this week, I spent a few days in northern Indiana, visiting my parents. They moved there, to my dad’s hometown, in 2001, after retiring from their careers in the Army. With a house on a ten-acre stretch of land, my parents have spent the last fourteen years creating a beautiful and peaceful retreat on the south side of the city, where town and country come together in a vast expanse of open farmland dotted with barns and old farmhouses. The streets, set wide apart, crisscross to form perfect square miles, making the roads ideal for measuring running and biking distance.
During the first few years, the house often felt more like a construction zone than a finished house. My parents remodeled most of the space, replacing old carpet with beautiful hardwood floors; outdated wallpaper with warm, inviting colors of paint; and old bathroom fixtures with new ones. They put in a new kitchen, updated the bedrooms, and finished the basement. My dad, who loves to build things, added another bedroom and a sunroom to the house, while my mom, who enjoys gardening, planted fruits and vegetables and flowers of all kinds in the land outside. They have spent thousands of hours making their house their home, and although I’ve never lived in that house, it has come to feel like home to me, too. It’s been the place I’ve gone for Thanksgivings and Christmases and spring breaks and summer family reunions. When people would ask me what I am doing for the holidays, I have come to reply, “I’m going home”. And by home, I mean the house in Indiana.
Thinking of my parents’ house evokes thoughts of afternoons spent in the sunroom next to a warm fire while looking out at a snow-covered wood; cooking Thanksgiving dinners with my mom, a football game on in the background that I couldn’t have cared less about, yet which I also couldn’t imagine not being on. I think of the bonfires my dad liked to make when we had family in town on cool summer evenings, and sitting in the kitchen catching up with my mom while she cooked or baked. There were always treats around, whether in the form of good food (I always seemed to leave Indiana a few pounds heavier than when I arrived) or peace and quiet. I felt comfortable in that house, cozy. I had grown to really love it.
And now, my parents are moving.
Last fall, they bought a smaller house on a smaller property, and have since been working on it to make it move-in ready. They’ve decided to downsize- something they had been thinking and talking about for a while, but I was still surprised when my mom broke the news to me last September. My parents’ current house and land, gorgeous as they are, require a lot of maintenance and my parents have been doing that work themselves, season after season, year after year, for the last decade and a half. Their new house won’t require as much upkeep and will free up my parents’ time so that they can enjoy their retirement and do the things that they love to do. It is only about a mile away from the current house, and it, too, is beautiful and overlooks a peaceful pond. Still, I’d be lying if I said I’m not going to miss the old house. After all, it’s the most consistent place I’ve had to call home in all my life. In a way, I feel as though I am moving, too. And in a way, with M.’s and my move to Riga, Latvia only six weeks away, I feel as though I will be moving twice.
By the time M. and I come back from Riga, my parents will have moved and settled into their new house. Right now, it looks a lot like a construction zone, just as their first Indiana house looked for a while after they bought it. I have every confidence that my parents will make their new house just as cozy as the first one, and I look forward to seeing them in it and having more time to spend on their hobbies and with their friends. Yet, I wonder if the new house will ever feel like home to me in the way the other one does.
My visit to Indiana this week was my last time to see my parents in their old house… ever. I spent some time in each room, savoring those moments and the memories my family has made over the years in that home. After 26 moves in my life and only one house that ever belonged to me on paper, who knew that the house I would miss the most would be one that I’ve never lived in?
Funny, the way it is.
Thank you for reading.
(Photo credits: my parents)