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12 June 2014 @ 06:15 pm
Where is home, anyway?  
I wonder how long it takes for home to feel like home again.
-Carly Diaz, quoted in Kinfolk
It's been almost three years since softlykarou and I moved back to Chicago from Japan. We had lived for three years in a small town in Japan and at the time we left, we pretty much considered Chiyoda home. It's true that an imperfect command of Japanese and the fact that we were obviously American meant that we weren't entirely integrated into community life, but our neighbors came and left us bags of vegetables, people said hello when we went on walks around the neighborhood, we were invited to local festivals, and so on. Some of that was just our privileged position as the local English teachers, but that didn't make it any less heartwarming. Coming back to America, we definitely felt like we had been displaced and our plan was for softlykarou to finish her grad school work, maybe work for a year to get some experience, and then move back to Japan as soon as possible.
Home is where one starts from.
-T.S. Eliot, "Four Quartets"
I'm not so sure anymore, though. I guess I should have learned from the example of Japan, where the first year we were pretty isolated in our tiny mountain town; the second year we knew more people, even if we didn't do that much because my job took up a ton of time and left me really irritable; and the third year we met a bunch of people we clicked with really well and it made it really hard to leave. I'm not sure what exactly I expected to happen when we moved back to Chicago, but pretty much the same thing happened here. Originally we didn't really know anyone, and my lack of a job and softlykarou burying herself in her studies meant we didn't meet many new people, but we did meet a few, and they introduced us to more, and they to more, and they to more, to the point where now we probably have the biggest network of friends we've ever had.
Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place.
-Frank Herbert, Dune
Maybe it was also the experience of moving from a suburb with mostly big-box stores and national chains to a small mountain town filled with local businesses to a major city filled with local businesses. Now we go to the local health food grocery store and the local butcher for our grocery shopping and go for dessert at the local frozen custard shop and walk to the local synagogue and so on. We're tied into the local community possibly to a greater degree than we were in Japan, and while people don't buy us drinks when we head to an izakaya anymore, the people at those shops chat with us when we come in. "Home" is a state that's independent of house or apartment and defined differently by different people, but I think for me, even though I'm pretty introverted, home has a lot to do with connections, and we've built a lot of them here.
What I love most about my home is who I share it with.
-Tad Carpenter
Two and a half years ago, I would have talked about moving back to Japan as going home. My time there has stuck with me, in the way I always call softlykarou "my wife" in conversation even if she's standing right there, or my tendency to bow whenever I thank people (though less now than before), or they way I reflexively sit seiza whenever I sit on the floor, or my sleeping preference for a real futon. But there are a lot of things I love about Chicago, too, like walking along the lake, or sharing frozen custard with softlykarou on a summer night, or going to black tie parties, or actually getting to play in face-to-face RPGs. And while I miss the people we met in Japan, many of them are scattered throughout the world now. And leaving here, I'd miss the people we've come to meet.
Home was not the place where you were born but the place you created yourself, where you did not need to explain, where you finally became what you were.
-Dermot Bolger, The Journey Home
Now, moving away from Chicago would be leaving home, and while I might be able to fit myself back in if I moved back to Japan, it wouldn't be the same. And it might be that we loved Chiyoda, not Japan--softlykarou's predecessor moved back and left after less than a year. I'm not so sure anymore, but I suppose that's what life is--uncertainty. And for the moment, at least, I'm home.
Current Mood: restlessrestless
Current Music: Unknown - Sakura
Bendrydem on June 12th, 2014 11:23 pm (UTC)
Great Minds
that is a peculiar coincidence.