I had a shitty day at work today. Nothing bad happened, I just felt adrift and restless. I couldn’t get anything done, didn’t eat much, got a pounding headache and wanted to leave and go home. I wanted to go home.
I ached to hop on a train out of New York City and head to my hometown and get picked up at the station by both of my parents, even though I told them to please not both come. To pull into my driveway where I used to bring villages to life with chalk, and walk through the wooden door that my first boyfriend knocked on. To breathe in the smell of banana walnut bread and plop on the worn couch and pour out my problems to my parents. I wanted to tell them my dumb worries and have them repeatedly assure me I’d be okay and slowly, I wanted to feel that rare sense of coming back to myself. My most honest—often forgotten—self. I wanted to be their kid.
I wanted to make fun of my mom with my dad. I wanted to hear my parents laughing. I wanted to look forward to Greek Easter. Or any holiday. I wanted to be reminded that besides my frenzied life in New York City, there existed a possibility that one day, I would live next door to my parents in a creaky house with bad heating and have them babysit my toddlers on the weekend. And watch them spoil my kids with the dairy filled, fudgy ice cream that I wouldn’t dare buy. And see my dad’s eyes light up when he took them on their first toboggan ride. And watch him dress up as in a blue wig just to hear my kids giggle. I wanted to feel the promise of life together.
I wanted to go home and play dominos into the night and be fed and held and unconditionally loved. I wanted to fart loudly and for my mom to fart after me and for my dad to say “she never did that when we were dating” and for it to be so incredibly comfortable that I forget what my troubles were in the first place. Forget what it felt like to be unanchored. Forget what it sounded like to hear my dad take his last breath. I wanted to feel whole again. I wanted to go home.
I can’t go there anymore. It doesn’t exist. It left with my dad. A lot left with my dad. I didn’t realize how much he was taking with him, or maybe how much he had brought to us. He was magic. He magically tied our family together, found the good part of a bad day and electrified any room he entered. He was a magician and life was his trick. We were the eager audience members, awed with his act and dumbfounded as to how he did it. We took shelter under his cape and flew with him through a bright, sunny sky. Without him, the world feels dimmer, the magic seems to have disappeared and I feel homeless. I’m terribly homesick. And I can’t go home.
What this does mean, however, is that home is not necessarily a place as much as it is a feeling. I don’t miss my house, but rather how its walls made me feel. I don’t miss my neighborhood running loop, I miss my running partner. I don’t miss childhood, I miss being my dad’s girl. I can’t just return to Seekonk, Massachusetts to feel whole again. The house might as well be empty. There is no quick fix for the gaping hollowness that fills me.
But there is also hope: If home is a feeling, home is a place that I can find again. Home is a place that I can create. Home is anywhere that makes me feel my most genuine self. Anyone that makes me feel unconditionally loved. Any friend that makes me belly laugh. I feel home in the arms of my adoring boyfriend, in the taste of a hot meal, in the last mile of a run. I feel home with old friends who knew the shape of my dad’s smile and new friends who bring out that same smile in me. I feel home when I wake up to the sound of a robin or go to bed to the sound of the rain.
I can still feel home. My old home will never be the same. It will never look the same. But I have hope knowing that while it comes in an unusual, unfamiliar shape, my home can never be completely gone.
Alyssa moved to New York City after college to pursue a career in stand up comedy, but returned home after her father was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Her writings can be found at www.alyssalimperis.com and she can be found on Twitter and Instagram @alyssalimp.