When I go back to the part of the country I most often call “home,” people tend to ask me how I like Kentucky. Usually I say, “I like it.” And then I say, “It’s not Pennsylvania, and it’s not really home, not yet, but it’s a good place.”
People these days are pretty mobile, if you haven’t noticed. Even on Facebook, most people I know list two categories: “Lives in ________” and “From ________.” Often these two places are very far apart. Very.
It’s a blessing that we can travel at the drop of a hat, that we can go and live where we are called, that we can experience the culture and community of different regions, that we can learn funny colloquialisms and crazy food choices of new friends.
But it also makes life pretty darn difficult. Families get seen only at holidays or major life events, like weddings and funerals, and sometimes then only if you’re lucky. Best friends live states away, and we have to miss birthday lunches and baby showers. When cousins marry, sometimes we’ve never met the new spouse until the wedding day.
Sure, we keep in touch thanks to amazing technology, but we get very little real-life interaction, very little face-time. We can Skype and laugh and share good news via grainy web cams, but we don’t go out to coffee or to happy hour or uncork a bottle of wine to celebrate. We can e-mail or text important messages to large numbers of people at one time, but we don’t sob together when life is hard. (Often because we don’t know when life is hard.) We see each other’s children grow up in photos, but we don’t get to feel them in our arms.
And it’s not the same thing.
There is something to lament here, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot, as I wonder about stability and putting down roots and really investing in a community here, where I’m planted.
You see, on the flip side of the “How do you like Kentucky?” question I get asked when I’m in Pennsylvania is the question I get asked a lot down here. You know what question I mean, the one that reminds me just how much I stick out? Yep. That one.
“Where are you from?”
Rarely am I asked, “Where do you call ‘home’?” Actually, I’ve never been asked that.
I’m beginning to wonder if maybe that should be our question. It tells a lot about a person. Truth is, I don’t know how I’d answer it today, and ten years from now, the answer might well be different.
But it’s not that our roots aren’t important. I will always be “from” somewhere that warms my heart, and sooty cities will probably always make it pitter-patter. I don’t fancy changing NFL allegiances any time soon or ceasing to use “awhile” to mean something like “now,” which is perfectly rational if you’re from central Pennsylvania.
It’s that it might be important to know where “home” is, too.
And sometimes it’s not the same thing.