home (noun): the place (such as a house or apartment) where a person lives; a family living together in one building, house, etc; a place where something normally or naturally lives or is located. –Merriam-Webster
116 East Thomas Street. 8333 Mohrle Rd. 1300 Academy Rd. 5000 Forbes Ave. 3700 O Street NW. Those are just five of the 15 addresses I’ve called “home” in the last 25 years. Accounting for boarding school, college, and living like a gypsy for almost all of the summers in between, I’ve accumulated a fairly large Amazon shipping address book. More than that, I’ve learned that “home” is many things, but the physical address is least important.
Haiti has me thinking a lot about the concept of home. Is it a physical space? The people you’re around? The town that you currently live in? Where you grew up? Where your parents live? Guests often ask how often I’ve been able to visit home since being in Haiti and it’s a difficult question to answer because home has come to mean so many different places.
Home is putting the extra leaf in the dinner table at my grandparents house so the whole family can sit down to grandma’s homemade mac and cheese…with peas of course. It’s the stools occupied by my parents and brother around the island centered in the yellow and blue kitchen of the house where I grew up. Home is the midnight laughter and running down the dorm halls at Culver when we were sure Ms. T, the dorm mom, had finally fallen asleep on a Friday night. It was the all-nighters pouring over physics, programming, and term papers at Carnegie Mellon. It was the morning Georgetown Cupcake runs before the line of tourists formed; laughing as we inhaled sugar for breakfast. Home is the coffee dates with acquaintances turned friends, laughter so true it turns to tears, pain so deep it releases a burden to share, and joyful celebration of life surrounded by people I love.
Right now, Haiti is home, but it didn’t always feel that way. It took time for my heart to connect to this place, as with every life change. Then one day, without warning, pieces of my heart were invested here, days had turned to months and Haiti had become part of home. So maybe it is true that “home is where the heart is”, but I think home is just as much where you’ve been as where you are. My heart is not in one place, it’s scattered across the globe. Every person and experience taking a small piece of it. Each physical address and city comprised of its own memories, laughter, pain, and stories. All of this woven together is like a storyboard of my life. Which, taken together, has come to equal home.
So sure, those 15 addresses have been my physical Merriam-Webster approved “homes”, but in my heart, home is so much more than that.