I’m going back to Missouri in a little more than a week for a family wedding, and that’s got me thinking about the concept of home.
I’ve now lived in the Washington area longer than I’ve lived anywhere, including the city of my birth and childhood. Like so many journalists before me, I came here for what was supposed to be a little temp gig for a few years. My plan was to do my time here, head back to Arkansas, become an editor again and live out my days in the Quapaw Quarter. It didn’t work out that way, though — work intervened, and then life intervened, and then a whole new career that didn’t even exist before the 1990s intervened, and suddenly 20 years slipped by.
But this is still not home. Instead of the two-year temporary assignment I envisioned, I’m now on a 20-year temporary assignment. I’m resigned to the fact that it’s going to be a 30-year temporary assignment, if not a 35-year one, and that I’m going to have to find a home after that.
I don’t think the town of my birth is that home. That’s not a knock; it’s a recognition of the fact that I’ve been city-fied — that I can’t really live in a smaller town any more. I need the excitement that a city brings, but Washington still feels too rootless and stiff to me to qualify as a home. People here don’t know how to be silly. I really need to live in a place where people are unafraid to be silly.
So, over the next decade, I’m hoping that my wife and I will audition some potential new home towns. We’ve talked about slower lower Delaware; we’ve talked about Charleston, the low country and Savannah; we’ve talked about Austin (which my wife has never visited). Lately I’ve been getting terribly romantic about New Orleans, which is a really dumb idea, given all the challenges that city faces. I’ve even thought about a place like Annapolis, but we long ago decided we weren’t Maryland people (around here, you’re a District person, a Virginia person or a Maryland person, and you simply don’t change teams).
There’s Colonial Beach, which is the closest thing you’ll ever get to a beach town on the Potomac River, but that again feels too small to me. There’s northern California, but that’s too isolated from our families. I feel like I have some unfinished business with Memphis, but I’m not sure it would appeal to both of us. And there’s still Little Rock, a city I haven’t visited in 17 years but a place that always made me comfortable.
Home is the kind of place where your soul feels at ease. It’s time for me to find a home.