Tag Archives: home

People on a journey

I’m a week away from a big move out of my hometown, where I have grown up and gone to college, where I have always returned after semesters abroad, conferences and vacations. I’ve never left Michigan for an indefinite period of time before. So it’s a big move, but also a pretty hectic one. I recently got back from a quick road trip to Montreal and Massachusetts, and before Easter I will rest my head in at least a half a dozen more cities from Eugene to Indianapolis and Ithaca.

I’m trying to cram in as many friends and as many favorite things to do and places to see as I can before I go (feels familiar, thinking back on Budapest and Oxford), while also packing up my life and spending time with my family here, whom I love a lot and will miss immensely. In recent years I’ve become rather attached to Michigan and to Grand Rapids, which always surprises me. I never ever felt welcome here as a kid. We moved here from West Africa with basically nothing, and I went to a little Christian school where it always felt like everybody knew everybody (and everybody’s grandparents knew everybody’s grandparents and they all went on vacation to Gulf Shores together too). In those early years, even though Grand Rapids was the only place I could remember, I knew so damn well that I didn’t belong.

That only began to change in college. I’m not quite sure yet how it changed, but I think it had something to do with studying abroad, reading Yi-Fu Tuan, and generally coming of age. (I also credit post-2008 media coverage of Michigan as a giant vat of decay since the Other’s gaze of morbid fascination can only strengthen a person’s defiance and statriotism!) Whatever the origin of my sense of being at home here, I now find myself feeling massively conflicted about being one more person to leave. Will I ever come back?

Another place I’ve been surprised to call home is the church I grew up in, which I’ve started attending again only in the last year. During Lent, our church has been using as a sending song “We are people on a journey” by Gregg DeMey. It includes the verse, “We are people on a journey, rising up in life reborn. / We are people on a journey, speaking peace, accepting scorn. / We are walking toward a homeland, to a myst’ry yet unknown, / to a kingdom coming quickly, to the light of God’s own throne.”

I have to admit that I often find it pretty hard to make out the light of God’s own throne, but as I set out on this big and hectic journey, I can say Amen to the myst’ry yet unknown and the hope for a homeland in this Lenten time of life.

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Moving house

My brother and his wife recently bought their first house, so I drove over there from Ann Arbor and helped clean their old place and shuttle the last of the boxes to the new one with them and my parents this weekend. I’ve lived in houses most of my life, so I guess I’ve sort of swallowed the great American myth that home ownership is the key to successful living and responsible citizenship. I recognize that there’s all sorts of problems with that myth, that the suburban, mid-century neighborhood my brother lives in is a product of the privilege, power and politics that underlay the myth at the height of white flight from Detroit. However, home ownership itself is typically a good thing; people take care of what is theirs, which is why ownership is a high priority for organizations that work on low-income housing and neighborhood stabilization.

Buying a house and moving—and this is not a metaphor—are about investing money, time and affection, about committing to take care of a place, and about jettisoning all the things you’ve collected in one space and taking only the important things with you, then starting your collection again in earnest. Houses take a lot of work, but they also build wealth, security, and autonomy.

I won’t buy a house any time soon, and right now I’m looking for a small, cheap apartment with a month-by-month lease. This is good, since I don’t know where I’ll be in 5 months. But maybe I can find someone who will let me help them pick out paint colors, fix the faucet, plant the garden…

In America

I’ve got a cat sleeping on my lap and there’s snow outside my window, which means I’m definitely home. There’s a lot to say about that, but I’ll just stick to one element of being back on this pleasant peninsula; it’s so much fun to understand speech in all its idiomatic glory.

When we got to the airport in Detroit, I was ecstatic with all the sounds, all the different accents, all the jokes, and all the nuance. Waiting for the airport tram, I found myself listening for Hungarian in the automated announcement, trying to pick out words or sounds. But then I realized, hey, I understand all of that!

Our professor warned us that we’d also understand people being cynical or mean to each other, and he’s right, that’s hard. But there’s so much else to love, even, as I’m enjoying right now, hearing Dianne Rehm’s famed voice on 104.1.

Jet lag hasn’t been difficult for me, but Facebook’s obviously struggling; it’s still giving me ads in Hungarian. Sajnos, nem ertem.