Usually I write here about exciting travels or the often exasperating experience of being an ex-pat in one of the least welcoming countries in the world. But this week all I can think about is home.
I’m still behind on sorting through my Russia photos and I haven’t even touched my Amsterdam photos from last weekend because every time I even think about looking at them, it feels wrong. Instead I keep seeing the flags of those countries, along with so many others, scattered on Boylston Street as people frantically dismantle barricades to try to reach the victims.
There has been some really bad news this year. The Newtown shootings made me sick and hit close to home since I’m a teacher myself. But Monday’s bombing hit my actual home. And the aftermath has made me reflect on a new definition of home: how you feel when something like this happens there.
1. You freak out because you can’t even think of all of the people you need to contact to make sure they are ok. It feels like it’s the entire city.
2. You almost start crying at random moments in your office when you think about it. You then look at the street map of the city taped to the wall of your office and you really do start crying.
3. You start to miss it with a tangible ache and want to be there. In a sense it’s better not to be there, because then you’re not surrounded by it 24/7, but it’s like the instinct to hug a crying child, or run toward an explosion to help anyone who’s hurt.
4. You do unprecedented things like keep the Globe’s Twitter feed open in a tab all the time on both your work and your home computer, because even repetitive, sometimes sensationalist/manipulative 140-character updates help make you feel just a little bit more connected. When the feed slows down in your morning because the time difference means it’s the middle of the night there, you feel abandoned and adrift.
5. You’re kind of upset that other people don’t seem as upset as you do, even though that makes total sense when you live 5,000 miles away on a different continent. It’s not their home.
Prior to this week, I never would have said that the Marathon or Patriots’ Day activities meant anything particularly significant to me. I’m not much of a runner myself, and when I was a kid I used to watch the section of the race that went through my hometown, or turn the TV coverage on in the background of whatever I was doing at home, but I was never an ardent fan. These events happened every year; they were the status quo; they were totally normal and taken for granted; and as a teacher they also coincided with spring break, when I was usually hoping to be somewhere else. This year, I’m going crazy because I can’t be there, because I’m not at home. Sometimes it’s being far away that makes you realize where your home really is, and why it is.
It’s the normal, status quo, taken-for-granted activities that give us our identity. Home is home because it is. And all the adventures in the world can’t replace it.