Home. It’s a curious idea, difficult to limit by pinpointing or defining it, pushing it into corners of meaning that ultimately leave others out. Still, I hear the word and allow my mind to pull a myriad of vividly associated frames – sometimes sounds, sometimes smells, sometimes pictures – at lightening speed.

Flash – running among plants taller than me – Flashreading Anne of Green Gables in the right-side passenger back seat by flashlight – Flash – bumpy van rides at early morning hours to a weekend job in the city – Flash – a frustrating grocery store with its unorganized aisles carrying food I wasn’t buying – Flash – an office with a window for birdwatching – Flash – my great grandfather’s table nestled in an apartment nook, unused but full of purpose – Flash

Last weekend we went home to the town I was raised in. Lots of human hugs and dog cuddles and an obligatory drive for real BBQ later, we came back home to the place we live now. A mostly joyful experience start to finish.

I find joy in my roots and joy in my present routine, though they are radically different ways of living. Truthfully, I belong fully to neither experience – but it was not until more recently that I started confidently owning my “dual citizenship,” a weird sort of just-outside-outsiderhood. For years I tried retrofitting neatly into one culture, one place, one set of social norms. That was an exhausting, ultimately soul-sucking enterprise. So I stopped. Thank God.

First out of self-preservation, I let myself feel at home in both places. And then, I realized I was home. That’s right, I learned my own lesson. Home isn’t just a zip code or a street address. It’s not a certain person or memory or association to the exclusion of others. It’s not one way of thinking or being or doing things. Not unless I let it be. Home can be many things – sometimes best when experienced in real-time and sometimes best when rediscovered, ready and waiting for me to fall in love with all over again.

I can’t help but feel like I’ve finally welcomed myself there.

Ryan Vale McGonigle

My husband and I took this photo on a walk in our neighborhood. I’m most at peace by the water and he grew up on an island, so it captures pretty well why this enclave is our heaven on earth.

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