For eighteen and a half years I lived in the suburbs of southern New Jersey, just 15 minutes outside of the great, historic city of Philadelphia. I attended elementary, middle, and high school there. I earned my driver’s license and bought my first (and second) car there. I danced the night away at three different proms there. I rooted for the Yankees while the rest of town rooted for the Phillies there. My entire childhood is encapsulated there.
For eighteen and a half years, south jersey was home.
Then, I left south jersey to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree a couple hours away in Towson, Maryland. I was a student at Towson, making several new friends and living in the residence halls there while I received my higher education— but south jersey was still home. Coincidentally, so many young people from New Jersey and New York flock to Towson; and being surrounded by a myriad of others from my area truly helped to relieve feelings of homesickness that crept into my heart.
Every holiday and summer, we all packed up our things, moved out of our dorms, and returned home.
At twenty-two years old, I graduated from Towson and rented my own place in Anne Arundel County, Maryland where I had secured a teaching job. But you can bet, south jersey was still where I called home. I continued to use my NJ driver’s license and sport my NJ license plate. The big brick house with black shutters situated on a corner in a Gloucester County neighborhood was my home. It would always be home. Memories seep from every wall of that house and my first pet, a bunny named Penny, is buried in the backyard.
When I would hear Miranda Lambert’s song, The House That Built Me, my eyes swelled with tears as I thought about my home— and how that brick house really did build me. There’s a piece of me in southern New Jersey. There’s a piece of me forever floating in that community. In that house. Pieces of my heart will always be at home, hiding under the tiles and wedged behind the drywall.
The tears and laughs that escaped me over the years still fall and echo in those rooms… at home.
I am now twenty-five years old and living in my second apartment, this one located in Baltimore city. I have just finished my third year of teaching in Maryland. This school year, I finally switched my driver’s license and license plate over to my Maryland address. I didn’t want to; I wasn’t a “Marylander”.
I was simply a Jersey Girl residing in the state of Maryland for the time being.
The truth is, my mother drove down from New Jersey one day and took me to the Motor Vehicle Association and (kindly) forced me to officially convert everything. It was a bittersweet and sentimental day; I knew it was something that had to be done but I kept pushing it off. I didn’t want to face the facts: I didn’t live in New Jersey anymore. But having my mother by my side that day alleviated some of the gloom I felt. “Home” was becoming a much more abstract place…
As I write this post, I am sitting on my floral couch in my living room in Baltimore. This floral couch used to be in my basement at home— in New Jersey. Actually, most of the furniture and items I have in my apartment are from home. Some people may prefer to buy new things, but I like being surrounded by possessions that are familiar. It helps to make my new apartment feel like home (it also allows me to save some money!).
Earlier this week, though, I was in New Jersey visiting my parents. I was in the big brick house with black shutters situated on a corner in a Gloucester County neighborhood. I was home. Or was I? The large, wooden computer desk was gone. The picture frames on the mantel above the fireplace were missing. The appliances and roof were replaced. Most of the rooms were painted new colors. The furniture in the dining area was absent. I looked for knives in the same spot knives had always been kept for twenty-five years, but they were nowhere to be found.
Where was I?
My mother sat on the couch in the living room exploring houses in Savannah, Georgia on her iPad. You see, my parents are moving down south this year. I won’t have the big brick house with black shutters situated on a corner in a Gloucester County neighborhood anymore. I won’t have a home.
That was the moment I realized my home was no longer home.
The bricks were still there, the black shutters hung in place, and the red front door was where it belonged. But it was different. It felt different. It didn’t really feel like home. You’ve heard the saying, “home is where the heart is”; but what if you don’t know where your heart is? What if your heart is torn? In pieces? Then what?
Home, for me, for now, is Baltimore, Maryland. I didn’t attend elementary, middle, or high school here. I didn’t earn my driver’s license or purchase cars here. I didn’t dance the night away at any proms here either. But…
For three years, I have lived in Maryland. I attended college and earned my Bachelor’s Degree here. I am pursuing my Master’s and renting an apartment here. I danced the night away at numerous sorority formals here. I root for the Yankees while the rest of town roots for the Orioles here. My adulthood is encapsulated here. This is home.
So, what is home?
Home is where you feel most familiar— most comfortable. Home is where you want to put your feet up after a long, rough day, and climb into bed when you just can’t rally any longer. Home is where you wake up every morning, make breakfast, and lock the door behind you when you leave. Home is where you invite friends and family over to spend time. Home is where you keep three bottles of your favorite wine on the kitchen counter because God knows you need it. Home is where you know where the knives are in the kitchen.
And it’s OK if your home changes throughout your life.
Your home may change more frequently than others. But the first time you realize your childhood home is no longer home— it can be tough. It isn’t weird to feel connected to a certain house, town, or state. There’s a sense of loyalty, even commitment, between you and your home. It’s odd to think of yourself as having a relationship with an inanimate object; but that is exactly how it feels to me.
Even though I have realized that my home is no longer home, I will still be completely and utterly devastated when my parents sell that big brick house with black shutters situated on a corner in a Gloucester County neighborhood. The world will continue to spin, and life will go on, but it won’t be the same. My parents, too, will have a new home— and I’ll then have to hop on a plane to visit them. That home will never be home to me, but maybe one day down the line, it’ll be home to my children. It will be a start of a new chapter. New chapters are good.
I will always have a home.
It may not be the same home I had when I was a seven year old, tenacious, freckled little girl, but it is home just the same. I am proud to call Maryland home. To call Baltimore home. I was in a long-term relationship here. I fostered eight puppies here. But I will always be a jersey girl through and through. In a few years from now, my home may be somewhere else. I have no idea. And I am OK with that now.
Because at this very moment, I do have a place where I want to put my feet up after a long, rough day, and climb into bed when I just can’t rally any longer. I do have a place where I wake up every morning, make breakfast, and lock the door behind myself when I leave. This is where I invite friends and family over to spend time. My apartment in Baltimore is where I keep three bottles of my favorite wine on the kitchen counter because God knows I need it. And, yes, I know where the knives are in the kitchen.
I love to travel. In fact, I’m addicted. If this is your first time on my blog, I invite you to poke around and read other posts I’ve written. I have been to twelve different countries so far and will be in Greece, lucky number 13, in just ten days. After that, I’ll be embarking on three other trips this summer within the USA. And as much as I love exploring, adventuring, taking risks, and expanding my horizons— I’ll always be happy to return home; where things are familiar, and comfortable, and mine.
And where I’ll most likely uncork a bottle of wine with my pants off, and enjoy all the other perks of being “home”.
What was the moment you realized your home was no longer home? Share your thoughts and feelings with me below!