‘Where are you from?’ I get asked this all the time and I don’t know what to say. New York, I say and then a million questions about the loud city are asked and I just answer gently “I’m not from the city.” I can see it as clear as the day itself because there’s a different green outside my gritty window. Where I’m from has bright green, tall trees that line the side of the road and no matter how many times they fix the road, the snow, plows, and salt will ruin them. There are always deer that graze in the should-be meadow turned parking lot and sometimes the sunlight dances across the green, tall grass like a symphony without music and you can still hear that music. It’s not your favorite song, but it’s a song. Some find it nice and it’s where I’m from, but nobody asks me where home is.
Home is that crinkle of the walkie-talkie as soft voices speak into it, or the whistles that control the water-coated day. Home is that look in every changing color sky that shines brighter than the symphony on the grass outside as I hold a bow and arrow in a child’s hand for the first time. Home is that gruff laugh and the sound of the diet coca cola can open in the office. It’s that warm, enveloping hug that I always think about. Sometimes it’s the smell of bug spray, sometimes it’s even that birthday cake left in the middle of the counter and I still don’t know why anyone would dislike it’s sprinkled smile. It’s the smell of spices and meats and foods in a frying pan and the sound of the churning dishwasher as we organize the plates. It’s the sound of songs being repeated back in the woods as GORP (good-old-raisins-and-peanuts) is passed around the barely standing campfire. Often it’s the feeling of curious, yet hesitant eyes on you as the eyes determine if this week will mean something or change their life. That’s where home is and nobody ever asks me that.
And, it’s weird because I could have hated that site. I could hate all the heart break it brought me but I go back because it isn’t the song I love. It’s the people in it. Sometimes people ask me ‘where are you from?’ and I think about the lack of green, the opposite of that town with deer grazing and I think about frogs and sunscreen. I think about how much I hate that town and how much more home the waterfront is.
I think about the way I once caught one hundred and thirteen frogs. I think about all the campers that knew me by my name without ever taking care of them, and the smiles I would give, that would be returnedwhen I played right alongside them. I think about the hot, hot sun and how vibrant my hair would be. Nobody’s ever asked me where home was, but when they ask me where I’m from, I want to talk about the place with all the buddie-tags and croc-eating-fish and friendship bracelets string tangled with boondoggle and buildings with bright colors. I want to talk about how warm and happy I felt, how accepted I was, that was my place and it was enough to have a part of my heart.
Nobody ever asked me where home was, and I never told anybody that it doesn’t really hurt leaving your heart in different places, littering that heart like a trail marker because home is where the heart is.
And I’ll be back one day to pick up all the pieces and put them back together like the simple puzzle they are.