When the wind smelled savory and the clouds looked like burnished gold, Mom would send us outside with all the pots and pans, buckets and basins in the house, which we’d tuck beneath the rain gutters.
We’d barely sleep from anticipation, the rumbles above echoing ones in our tummies. At dawn, if school was out, Mom would let us play in the chicken soup that poured down in warm sheets. For hours, we’d splash in fragrant puddles swirling with noodles and earthworms. Mom always called us in too soon.
All winter, we’d sip mugs of rain and feel warm again.
Here in the Jones house, we’ve been taking turns being sick all week. I was, unfortunately, Patient Zero, developing one of those nasty viruses that runs the whole gamut of autumn misery: sore throat, fever, and all kinds of crud in the sinuses. So you can imagine I’ve spent some time this week indulging in self-pity over the tragedy of adult life: that when you’re sick, you’ve got to carry on with your responsibilities in spite of it.
Still, don’t we all long for the days when we were children, and someone would come take care of us when we were sick? When your mom or dad, or grandmother or grandfather would offer you orange juice every couple of hours, make special soup, let you watch Wheel of Fortune in your pajamas instead of going to school? That’s what today’s story is about. I wanted to evoke that warm, nostalgic feeling of what it means to be a kid, and the healing powers of chicken soup. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope my cold is not catching through the internet nowadays.
Earth called and my dad answered, enlisting himself and my family to search for life in the stars. I was an infant when we boarded the Perseus. I cut my teeth orbiting Saturn. By the time we reached Vega, I’d enlisted too.
I was among the first to contact the aliens of Vega: translator, diplomat, friend.
But retirement comes early for the military woman, and over my protests they shipped me back to the distant planet of my birth. They call it home, but even the stars are strange to me here.
I’m homesick for space. I’m the alien now.
How do you define “home”?
When people ask me where I’m from, I’m never sure how to answer. Do they mean where I was born? Do they mean my nationality? Or do they mean where I’ve lived the longest, or perhaps the place I liked the most? For me, these are all different places.
You see, I’ve moved around quite a bit in my short life, on average every 3 years or so. I grew up a Military Brat. My family followed my father’s assignments, which means that although I’m American, I was born in Germany. I’ve lived on both coasts of the US, as well as the northern and southern ends at various times. For a large chunk of my childhood, I lived in Italy. Eventually I wound up in Georgia, fell in love with a local boy, and have been here ever since, although we’ve lived in several cities around the state.
I have mixed feelings about all the globetrotting. On the positive side, it’s given me some great stories and a sense of adventure toward travel. I’ve also learned what it means to live in a world full of many countries, customs, and languages. No matter where you’re from, there’s probably a lot that you take for granted about what’s standard or appropriate. This could be what you eat, what you wear, how you speak, and what you expect from others. When you begin to travel or to talk with people who live very different lifestyles, you become aware of how small your experience is, in the grand scheme of humanity.
We are all like fish who don’t know we’re wet until the day we’re flopping around outside the water.
The downside of moving so much is that I’m left without a sense of belonging. Like the woman in today’s story, even when I return to what we must call my “home”, I feel like a visitor. People often describe “home” as a place where you’ve been, or as a place where you are right now. I’ve come to think of “home” as a destination. Someday, I tell myself, I’ll arrive somewhere and know I’m finally home.
I hope that day comes.
By way of contrast, my husband lived in the same house his entire life. That boggles my mind! What must it be like, I wonder, to have that sort of attachment to a single place? Is it worth the tradeoffs? I guess we have no way of knowing; you only get one childhood, so the best we can do is swap stories.
So tell me about yourself. Did you live in one place your whole life, or did you move around? What do you think are the upsides and downsides to the way you grew up?