Recently, I have been teaching the word "home," to my Chinese students. First, we draw a picture. I always choose the green crayon, because it was a green house that made me feel at home. Then we continue with the definition: a place where you rest and feel loved. It is simple and easy for them to understand. At first I have this huge desire to yell, "but this is a developing definition. It changes with age." I feel like I am misguiding them, by not sharing this secret. But I ease my mind, knowing eventually they will understand that I gave them such a simple definition for something so complex. When I was twenty, the only place that felt like home was Cambodia. When I was twenty-one it was the classroom, full of middle schoolers who knew more than I did, but I still stood up front of them acting like I knew something. At twenty-two it was his arms, in the green house. It was his bed with the burgundy sheets, and the mismatched chairs in the backyard from past roommates. On my twenty-third birthday, we spent the entire night clearing out that house -- leaving home to be only be me.
For the next several weeks, I will be publishing short stories about that green house.
In leaving and coming, unpacking and overstaying I have come to know this -- sometimes our homes burn to the ground, for various reasons. Perhaps they are like Eucalyptus trees, waiting to catch itself on fire, only to rebuild. Other times, all that remains is the ash and smoke, as we sift through the memories.
Following the smoke, we fight between watching it burn with anticipation of what happens next and braving the smoke to save what is left.
This is finding home ...