Words of home | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | Feb 04, 2017

Someone asked me today if I was from Edmonds. Well, actually, it was more along the lines of, “I just assumed you were from here. Where are you from?”

I found it reassuring, complimentary. It signified that I have found my place here, I fit in, I belong. For someone who has called many places home, that is not an easy thing.

By the numbers, I lived in Philadelphia for the most time so far. That is until this August, when I will have lived in Edmonds for more years than I was there. In between, I lived in Albuquerque, north of London and in Salt Lake City.

I feel at home in all of them, except Salt Lake.

I feel a constant yearning to go to Philadelphia, London and Albuquerque and, when I am away, back here. Maybe I am looking for something, a feeling described best by one of America’s most brilliant authors, Thomas Wolfe, in “You Can’t Go Home Again.”

He says of the main character, “He never had the sense of home so much as when he felt that he was going there. It was only when he got there that his homelessness began.”

This feeling of not having one home has created my peripatetic nature. I like to wander, roam, travel. I like to disappear for a while. Being in different cultures, languages, tastes, preference – existing within all the different versions of us, humans.

Over the years, I have found myself uncomfortable many times, and have been lucky more often than not, but also come across the most remarkable people – kind, generous, fascinating.

When my husband and I camped throughout Mexico, with nothing more than an old Ford Bronco and a few hundred dollars, we met one family who found us a palapa to park under, and who we bonded with over music and exchanged mixed tapes.

During a visit to the Dead Sea in Jordan, I will never forget the driver who kept a very respectful distance but would not let anyone near a friend and me. I vividly remember the man who slung me over his shoulder when I collapsed in a Central American jungle and took me for medical help.

More recently, I think of the young Chinese student who shared her first Starbucks with us and expressed a charming level of glee. The Washington mountain climber also comes to mind, and he helped us believe the wisest of lessons, obvious but not easily learned: It is not the summit; it’s the journey.

These days, as I get older and feel loss more and change more intensely, being home is a wonderful thing. Home means being around those I love, with friends who love cheese like we do, my own cup and coffee, and the knowledge that the tuna poke tacos will be waiting at Bar Dojo.

At the same time, I am grateful that I still have a seemingly endless list of destinations to visit, and I still long for the walk along Fifth Street toward Independence Hall in Philadelphia, to order chips or a pint in England, and to answer “red and green” to New Mexico’s state question.

The world has nearly always welcomed American curiosity and responded in kind when offered our sincere appreciation of different experiences. Wolfe knew we needed to be a part of a bigger world to truly be American: “Perhaps this is our strange and haunting paradox here in America – that we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement.”


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