Sunday, February 27, 2011


This is not about being “here”, it about being anywhere and why. It’s also about “home” and what that means. Home, for me, has always been where I am at a given time, provided I indeed have a place to get out of the rain, cold, heat, hustle, bustle, etc.. I have even been “home” in a tent during an extended period of transition (almost 3 months) when I first moved to Austin, ostensibly to attend UT, but really just to be in Austin, where I felt an affinity the moment I arrived for the first time. If I am homesick, that is where I am homesick for.

We spent twenty years in Austin in various rent houses, and though we did leave for two years while we tried to live in other parts of Texas (unsuccessfully, I might add), I do not consider that more than an extended business trip out of town, since we moved back as soon as we could. Eventually, we did buy a house as finally our credit was not so in-the-toilet, after putting us both through college, and all that that ordeal potended. We lived in that house for a little less than a year and a half, before we made the move to rural Alaska. Lots of other people lived there longer than we did. We kept it rented for most of those years and even had Senna, our daughter living in it when she moved back to Austin for school in San Marcos. It felt like someone’s home when we visited, but not ours. Now it sits lonely and empty, except for some random furniture the realtor recommended we leave so that it might show better than an empty house. The hope is that someone else can picture it as ‘home” and take it off our hands.

Having never lived in any one place for very long, except my childhood home of twelve years, where no one and nothing remains that made it “home”, I don’t have the roots that many people get all gushy and reminiscent about. I like to say that the Hudson River valley was a good place to be…FROM. I have no great desire to return and there’s a raft of reasons for that.

house, dog, winter...nuff said.

Other than the house on Cobey Terrace, in Poughkeepsie, where I spent most of my formative years, the longest I ever called one house “home” was eight years in Toksook Bay, Alaska, school-district housing. A house does not a home make, but we did make friends we cherish and we had a steady stream of visitors, mostly kids, who just wanted to see how we lived and maybe make popcorn with us. For eight years we lived in a fish bowl and small children knocked on our door with the vague hope that we would let them visit. Since that time, we have been in two other villages where we have elected not to invite students in, though still, some DO ask. Intermittent reinforcement is the strongest kind. While privacy has improved, it does not feel as much like home; more like a place to keep our stuff while we’re here.

small but warm

An attraction that drew many fans: popcorn with
butter, nutritional yeast, and Cajun seasoning

In Kenai, we are trying to call that place “home” though we only spend a few months there in the summer and a few days or weeks during our winter break. I love the place, it’s comfortable and convenient to places we want to be, but it still seems more like a vacation destination than “home”. Other people stay there while we’re gone so even though we leave our stuff out in plain sight, it may not be “theirs” but it doesn’t exactly feel like “ours” either.

Kenai lawn ornament

At the end of each school year, we sort out our travel plans. We always have travel plans because summer means travel. People here travel to their fish camps, other villages, and all the places that summer demands they be. Our own summer has become a long undefined punctuation mark that allows us to do something different, and to prepare for another year doing what we do, in another place that we casually call “home” for much of the school year, though upon reflection, it doesn’t really fit the bill.

everyone had a long day, even the cat.

1 comment:

Pamela said...

One of the most exciting parts of my childhood for many years was the moment when we would turn off the main road onto your street and wind up the narrow macadam, past your neighbors' houses and into the parking area in front of your garage. Spending time with the Barnett clan was just about the best thing my brother or I could imagine. Well, except that one time that Eddie slammed the bureau drawer shut on the kitten's head..

But the hours of reading Mad Magazine in your attic bedroom, running through the grounds of the State Hospital, riding in the back of your dad's pickup truck are cherished memories. Somewhere I have pictures of all us out hiking on Brace Mountain -- I'll post them when I find them!

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