January 4, 2011


After eighteen days away, it's nice to be back in my own apartment. I'm definitely looking forward to getting back into my own routines of eating, exercising, and just living my daily life. But of course, there are things I miss about Connecticut already ... such as conversations like this:
Mary, why can't you stay a few more days?

Because I have to go back to work soon, Little. I have to get all my things ready for my students for the beginning of the semester. I have to make lesson plans.

But can't you do that here?

No, I can't, sweetness. All my stuff is at my apartment, you know!

But can't you just run to Chicago, grab your books, and come back?
Every time I have to kiss this kid goodbye, it breaks my heart.

Whenever I return to Chicago after a trip back east, I unlock my apartment door and roll in my suitcase. I kick off my shoes, close the door behind me, and exhale very deeply. It's a sigh of both sadness and relief. I'm at a strange transitional phase in my adult life where I am redefining my definition of "home." Is it the house I grew up in, where the rest of my family is? Or is it this little apartment and the life contained therein that I have created for myself?

This trip back felt like the final, definitive nail in the coffin in favor of retiring the former definition. It had little to do with sticking to or not sticking to my plans for eating and exercising, to be honest. Despite spending the majority of my life in that little house, it has become harder and harder to identify with. The bedroom I once shared with my two sisters has been rearranged, and my bed and dresser have been taken over - so when I visit, I sleep on the couch and live out of my suitcase. Things get changed up, to the point where I have to ask where things go when I put away groceries or dry the dishes. Nothing in that house feels like it is mine anymore - except the people.

There are things that I both love and hate about Connecticut. I suppose the same could be said for Chicago - it certainly has its fair share of bad days - but somehow, the stresses and the pleasures of visiting home feel completely different from those related to my solitary life here in the city. A lot of this difference is related to the fact that when I visit, there are six people in the house in Connecticut - but here in Chicago, I am alone. i wanna eat this baby faceThere are both benefits and challenges to living alone, and I think that is part of why I secretly love the fact that my family is not terribly dynamic. I always know what to expect when I go home - even if the pots and pans are now to the left of the sink instead of the right, I know exactly how my mother will be right before Christmas (crazy and stressed) or what my dad will complain about at least four times a day (money and medications) or what Lisa will want for her birthday dinner (chicken parm) or how bad I will beat my sister Katie at Scrabble (insanely crazy bad) or what is at the top of Dan's Christmas list (Lego sets).

My mom always jokes that even when I was a baby, as soon as I could move on my own, I was walking away from my family. It's true that I'm independent - to a fault, even, sometimes. And I would say that I'm a very dynamic person, at least comparatively. So as much as I love that my parents and siblings always seem to stay the same, I also have a tendency to resent them for their resistance to change. This was especially difficult on this trip. I have changed so drastically from the last time we were all together, but that's not all. The nature of my changes is something that the entire family needs considerable help with, and so to see them so opposed to positive changes really upset me - especially my father, who will get an entry all his own tomorrow.


Jessica said...

I remember when I lived in my apartment alone...I LOVED it, but since I was by myself it never quite felt like "home" to me. It was a wonderful landing spot for me to transition from a child into the woman I am today. I will always appreciate those years at the apartment.

Mary said...

From Shannon (because I'm a fool and clicked "delete" instead of "publish"):

I would call your apartment home. Your apartment and the life you've created are helping you become the woman you will be. And one day that little apartment will seem strange and you'll be in a new home...maybe married, maybe with kids? Who knows. But home is where you make it and even though it's all by yourself in a little apartment miles and miles from your initial home, you've made it home.

Tim said...

I'm still at my family home but will be moving out this year so it'll be interesting to see whether I think similar things once I am in my own place.

P.S - Great pic!! Looks like you're both having lots of fun :)

Ann (-50 lbs in -60 lb challenge) said...

It is all part of the growing up and letting go process. Like you said, the people remain familiar, but the environment is less so. Better put, the environment is no longer your own. It is your parents' vision. You are still creating and defining your own. Your apartment is now home. Your parents' home is now - for you - the family seat, a cenral gathering place, but not yours anylonger.

So, were they completely blown away, seeing you in person?!!

Amy said...

I totally get this feeling. I go home and it's not the home I grew up in. I still have a bedroom... but it's not mine that I grew up in.
I don't know where everything goes and I don't always know what's going on. It's still home in my heart.

I really struggled with where home is, but sadly Ottawa is now my home. After I moved in with Stewart it became home because we made it our home. Living with roomies was not home and I always just wanted to get home. I always called it the house...never home and it always hurt my feelings when I was home and my mom would say, "When are you going home?" "Ummmm I am home!!"

Now I have two homes, but as time passes more and more I feel like I only have one and the house I grew up in is my parent's house.