Coming Home

I have a complicated relationship with ‘home’. It’s something I’ve continually struggled to define since my sophomore year of high school when my family moved to Holden Village, WA. A small intentional community grounded in the ELCA Lutheran tradition, Holden Village is a community that is constantly in flux, as most people stay for a year or less to volunteer before moving on. I lived there for three years (and my parents and brother stayed for an additional two years after that) and Holden became very much my home. However, at the same time, we maintained our ties to our previous church community and when we would visit, everyone would always exclaim “welcome home!” This greeting became increasingly irritating to me because I felt I’d had so many experiences away from that community that had changed how I thought about myself and constructed my own identity. I felt that they didn’t know me anymore. However, when I returned again to that church this summer, reunited with old friends, and saw how the community had changed and stayed the same in the six years since I left, I felt so at home among these people who had known me since I was a toddler and still cared about me deeply despite my prolonged absence.

In addition to these two homes, my family has spent various periods over the last few years living with my grandparents (and during that time, my grandparents moved from one house to another), I moved to Boston for school and also lived with families in Tanzania and Ecuador. Then, last November, my family left Holden and spent seven months without a fixed home, traveling 34,000 miles around the U.S. in a tiny teardrop trailer that my dad and brother built. We dubbed ourselves the “turtle people”, carrying our home with us wherever we went. Once we returned to Washington we moved to Seattle, bringing my ‘home’ total up to 13 in the last seven years.

This is why, when I returned to Boston in August after nine months away, I was both leaving home and coming home. I know I’ve talked about this in previous blogs, but it remains true that my sense of home here has been heavily influenced by my experience with the chapel. On my first Sunday here, less than 24 hours after saying goodbye to my family, I sat down in the chapel pews and in the singing of the hymns and sharing of the word, I felt comforted, enveloped by a profound sense of belonging. Even though my ‘home’ was 3,000 miles away, I had also found a home here. And I can connect many of my homes to a community of faith—my old church, the Holden Village community, the faith that my grandparents and parents have built our family around.

What connects me to a place and makes it home for me are the connections I make within that place, the connections of faith and shared community. So when I came back to Boston, I came home to dear friends and old routines, but more importantly, I came home to familiar liturgies and a close community of faith. I’ve found so many homes in a variety of different places over the past few years but it feels really good to be back in this one.

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