When you come from many bloodlines, there’s an internal desire to search for the place you belong to entirely. To walk in your ancestor’s footsteps and feel their experiences. It means to dream about it. To compare yourself to a reality that others belong to so effortlessly, but one that leaves you looking in – always one foot in and one foot out. You dream of returning to a place that somehow belongs to you. A place you’ll smell and sigh and say to yourself – this is what I’ve been searching for. This is what it feels like to come home. And it’s even harder when you’ve constructed the place in your mind—Eden. A place you know will have hearty broths and fried pastries with anise and flower blossoms, covered in powdered sugar. You animate and relive moments you’ve only been told about in passing. And when you’re plagued with thoughts like these, you don’t see another option but to go in search of it. So, you leave everything that anchors you down, and you set out on your own exodus. Reality is, yours looks different than the ones you’d imagined. Your epic journey has strollers and ergos and sippy cups. Yours has arnica and knees that get scrapped over and over again. It’s got a scooter that follows closely behind you and sometimes gets brave and goes too far. Yours has ice cream. So much ice cream. Especially lemon sorbet – some with rind, and some with lime and some that aren’t tart enough. And you’re not sure what you’re looking for, in little stone villages, propped high above sea level, or coastal towns that embrace your children warmly. You rent apartments: drop your luggage in the smallest room, far from sight so you can pretend to live there. The tile is often gorgeous, and there’s Netflix, record players, and wooden toys for the kids. There are guitars or pianos and art on the walls. But the sheets don’t smell familiar, and even as you nurse the baby in bed at sunrise, his soft golden hair tickling your nose as you attempt to put him back to sleep, there’s something lonely about doing this in someone else’s room. Something off about you living your intimate life in their space. And so after three, four days max, you’re glad to escape to another place. The new house welcomes you. There’s so much to discover. Your big boy helps his daddy cook in unfamiliar pans. Your baby dances to his own babble and turns round and round and round until he falls. And you go through the whole thing again and again: The newness of the place and the realizations that this isn’t yours, and yours is somewhere around the next corner. And sometimes, after you’ve driven hours through magical forests, seen rainbows and goats and landscapes you never thought were real, you arrive in a place that tugs at you. The food is familiar—a smoky, porky broth filled with bean and kale. An overcast sky. A familiar scent of rain and grass. “Mama,” your big boy, who may have sensed the change in you, will ask. “Are we going home soon?” And you pause and look around, and suddenly realize you’re a foreigner in this place. Those big gray eyes ask you questions you don’t have answers to. You think of something new to say because he’s asked you this before. “We’ll get our new home soon,” you manage to convince him, “and you’ll see your friends again.” You say it because you want it to be true. They soothe the both of you.
And you find yourself glad to be back in the car—the sound of the familiar playlist comforts your baby to sleep, and your big boy wants to see the GPS and map out the roads you’ll be taking. Your husband slips his sunglasses on and hands you an e-reader and a cup of coffee. The moment feels comforting and familiar; you’ve gone through these motions a thousand times. And suddenly, you realize this is why you were glad to leave the apartment; you were looking forward to having them all close again, within the constraints of your little car. The four of you pushed forward by an invisible force but tethered with the bonds of blood and love. Their faces are the ones you look to when you’re nostalgic; when you can’t find your footing. Their arms are always reaching for you, despite the place, despite the food, despite the unfamiliar smells. You belong to them entirely and they to you. And you realize then, as you embark toward a new place that will unravel with surprises you’d never expected, you’ve been home all along.