I’ve been thinking about the importance of place lately. Why, you may ask.
Because I’m going home. Actually, I’m going home to two homes.
Are there places you love? Places you consider home, even when you don’t live there and perhaps haven’t lived there for decades?
I have many. I’ve lived in places that I’ll hold dear until the day I leave this earth for my final home. Places that make me feel fragmented because I’m not there, no matter how much I may love here. Part of me, part of my heart, is always someplace else.
I’ve left my heart in San Francisco, and I’ve left it all over the world.
People have told me I get too attached to Place. That it should be People who matter. And only People.
Of course, people elevate the value of a location. But I can love a place solely for its own merit.
Many factors affect how you remember a place. The general atmosphere and attitudes. How formative the place was in your history. Whether you made lasting friends. Did you have significant work that fulfilled you? Did you like the climate or the geography? Were you happy there?
Or maybe you like who you became in that place. How the place changed you.
Settings become characters in the story of your life.
I’ve lived all over. I’ve experienced the joy of falling in love with a place that’s radically different from anything I’d known before.
Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you live in the same town you grew up in. I admit there are times I’m jealous of you. You have the steady comfort of roots grown deep, and probably family nearby, that I’ve longed for. Yet I wouldn’t trade the life I’ve lived for anything.
Like potential friends, you don’t always bond right away with certain places. Or perhaps, never. Usually I found something I liked, some pretty corner tucked away or some friend I enjoyed, even in places that I think back on as little more than temporary stepping stones on my journey.
Some places you’ve loved longer than your memories exist. I can’t remember ever not loving Harmony. The name says it all, situated in the Land of Pleasant Living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was my first home, and my only home for 23 years. I’m homesick for it when I’m away.
But I do remember, as a young girl, being captivated by novels set across the globe, and yearning for something more.
Then there’s love at first sight. The first time I drove to Rhode Island, I knew it. I felt it deep in my bones as I crossed the state line from Connecticut. Energized. Excited about possibilities. Invigorated. Berkeley, California was another immediate infatuation for me.
I entered Romania with a mixture of fear and hope. Deep underneath rested a confidence that God had called me, but I couldn’t summon that assurance to the surface on demand. Life was hard and the city of Bucharest was aesthetically-challenged in those days.
Still, it didn’t take long for the warmth of the people to woo me and never let me go.
Like a mother’s love for a child, sometimes your love for place defies explanation. And like a mother’s love, my bond with Romania didn’t suffer when it acted badly toward me, and I couldn’t love it any more when it made me proud.
From there I moved to Hungary. Budapest had glimmered as the beautiful destination for all my train trips to stock up on supplies and get re-energized. I loved it as a visitor, but I wasted the first few years living there by comparing it to my dearly-missed Romania.
Relentless Hungary edged its way into my heart after all. By the time I left, I’d come full circle, appreciating the good things.
Sometimes you need distance, and maybe time, to feel the love. I didn’t realize how utterly I loved Hungary until the first time I returned.
When I got married, I moved to probably the most gorgeous place I’ve ever lived. Prickly Marin County, California—the extreme opposite of Eastern Europe in terms of lifestyle and values–didn’t welcome me as I navigated cultural re-adjustment.
Yet, I’ll always love Marin because that’s where I met Steve and started my life with him. And that’s where he promised me that we’d go “home” to Eastern Europe every five-six years.
It’s been six years.
In one week, less than a day after we return from my nephew’s wedding, we fly to Budapest. Then we hop on a boat for a river cruise down the Danube to Bucharest.
I’ll be reunited with my two beloved cities.
Can you love a place?
I do. And I’m headed home!