Reflections on Leaving Home

You want to know something funny? I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the lack of a meaning of “home” for me. I even contributed my take on what home is for an art project last year, declaring that “home,” for me, was on the road. After all, home is tough to define. I lived in 5 cities and 10 houses by the time I finished high school, so what is home?

Well, I have a confession to make. I realized that I was wrong.

See, up until last week, my parents lived in the same house they’d lived in since my freshman year of high school (9th grade), always being in a familiar place to come back to. I may have lived in 3 apartments during my 5 years in New York City, but still they were there. Even as I found myself bouncing all over the world over the past couple of years, that room I once lived in that I knew so well was still there for me.

I didn’t make it back much, but when I did, there was always comfort in that familiar environment. Comfort, and memories…

I grew up in that house, spending nearly the entirety of my high school years there.  Pets lived and died there. My grandmother, who I so adored, also passed away there. Memories of my adolescence stood within its four walls. The great view from the back yard. Counting the planes lining up to land while chilling in the hot tub. The stunning sunrises on the way to school.

Cat Nap

And you know what the sad part was? I didn’t realize just how much I loved this house until it was too late.

My parents sold the house several months ago and the closing date always loomed up ahead as some far off day in the future. Even with the packing frenzy going on, it never really seemed real. That is, until the morning before the closing, when my parents and I would all go our separate ways, never to set foot in that house again.

Walking out that front door, I found myself totally overcome with emotion, fighting back tears as I said my goodbyes. It wasn’t that I was leaving my parents…I’m very used to that process. It was that I was leaving this house with the knowledge that I would never see it again…

Right then I got it. I had a “home” all along and this was it. The familiarity and the comfort were gone. And isn’t that really what home is? Sure, there’s that saying, “Home is where the heart is,” and that may be true. But nothing will ever really replace the significance that this particular house had for me.

I may very well find another “home,” but what if I don’t realize it until it’s too late again?

What about you?

Have you left your childhood home for good? What was your experience?

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14 Responses to Reflections on Leaving Home

  1. Steph | A Nerd At Large May 7, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    I feel your pain, Aaron. In 2006 my parents sold the farm where I grew up, and which had been in our family for a couple generations before my parents moved in when they got married 52 years ago. As a kid, and especially as a teen, I could not wait to get out of there and experience the rest of the world., and I moved away at the first opportunity.Then, In my twenties and early thirties I had vague aspirations of buying the place from them and doing something amazing with it. One day a speculator came to the door and offered them a deal they felt they couldn’t refuse. They called each of us and offered to sell the farm to us if we could match it, but it was in that moment that I realized it had been a pipe dream all along. They’re very happy in their new place, and I don’t begrudge them anything, but I’ve noticed that I no longer say things like “I’m going home for the weekend” and instead it has become “I’m visiting Mom and Dad this weekend.” I don’t have a home anymore. I’m just visiting.

    • Aaron May 9, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

      That’s rough! I suppose the most imporant thing is that your parents are happy with the decision they made and with their new lives, and I certainly wish that for my parents, but you’re right. How can I say, “I’m going home” now? Perhaps the even stranger thing is that, though I grew up all over the place, Las Vegas was always the place I was from. In this move, I’ve also lost my reason to visit there. Time will tell how that changes things in my life…

  2. Talon May 7, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    I never really had a home like that so it’s hard for me to completely relate, although I do understand. Sounds like some very cherished memories.

    • Aaron May 9, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

      Funny thing is that a week ago, I felt the same way you did, that I never really had a home. It wasn’t until the sale of this house happened that I realized that in fact I did have one!

  3. Jennifer May 7, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    Thanks for sharing. Completely understand, my parents house will always be ‘home’ too 🙂

    • Aaron May 9, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

      Glad to hear you realize it already! My problem is that I didn’t realize it until it was too late!

  4. Sam May 8, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    This resonates with me because when I left for South America with my partner in January, I knew it would likely be the last time I set foot in my childhood home. My mother is planning to sell the house where I grew up this year, and I likely won’t be back in the UK before that happens (at least I hope so if our travels are to go to plan!) At the time of leaving, I wasn’t so worried about the house itself, but I imagine when she tells me that there’s a date and it gets closer, I’ll start to think about it some more. I actually took pictures before I left, and I’m sure I’ll go back and look over them once the date comes up.

    • Aaron May 9, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

      Does your mother actually have a closing date on the house yet? In my case, my parents had been threatening to move ever since I finished high school but one thing or another always kept them there. I think because of that I never really believed them this time when they said they were selling the house. Even after the house sold and the packing began, it was never really real. Until, of course, the moment I was walking out the door for the very last time!

      That was smart to take pictures though! My mom had me film a video walk through of the garden that morning before I left.

      • Sam May 10, 2013 at 10:20 am #

        No, there’s no “closing date” yet (I can’t think what this is called in British English, but it’s definitely a different phrase!), but she is planning to move out immediately when she retires in two months to move nearer to her parents…so we don’t really know when the house will be sold. It’s certainly a strange feeling, nonetheless, and I don’t even have a room at that house anymore!

        • Aaron May 10, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

          Ah yes, “closing date” is the day that the ownership actually transfers (as does the money). It sure is a strange feeling though!

  5. Ariel May 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    There is a ridiculous amount of nostalgia when it comes to family homes, isn’t there? As travellers, I guess we tend to find bits of home in foreign places, but I know what you mean, it’s never quite the same. I think ultimately, for me though, there’s more emphasis on the people. I think that’s why the bit about the grandparents and the pets really resonates with me – I was living abroad for a couple years, and while the house was the same upon returning, so much about the atmosphere had changed. It’s like the visual reality of growing up. It’s weird, the power of goodbyes. Even when it comes to “homes”.

    C’est la vie though, right? Embrace whatever elements of “home” you can find wherever you are at any given moment!

    • Aaron May 30, 2013 at 1:05 am #

      I guess there is. I just can’t believe I didn’t realize it until I was literally walking out the door for the last time! But you’re right. Really home is about where the people you love are. Or, for me at least, these days home is NYC, where I’ve maintained an apartment for the past 6 years, even if I’m never there…

  6. Jane Has A Backpack August 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    You have great memories during childhood still.
    “Home is where your heart is”. – If you enjoy and love travelling, the world is your own home. In fact we travel and collect memories of our experiences, same when your still at old house, memories are kept forever within us.

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