What It Feels Like When You Lose Your Childhood Home


A movie I really like posed the question “You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore?” I went home last weekend and walked around the house I grew up in and realized it was the furthest thing from the idea of home I could imagine.

Another movie I really liked featured hundreds of midgets in furry costumes attacking Imperial Stormtroopers. So, you know, take whatever it is I say with a grain of salt. Or a shot of vodka.

I moved to New York in 1998 when I was 11. The house my parents bought on Long Island was my home for the next seven years before I left for college. But even while I was away it was always home to me. When I got my first apartment after college with my roommate, Josh, we both would always refer to the apartment as “The Apartment.” The word “Home” was rarely used, if ever, to describe where we lived. Over the holidays when I would go back to New York and Josh would go to Illinois we both said we were going home. That idea of the houses where we grew up still being our homes was somehow cemented in our brains like handprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

It wasn’t until this year when I got my own place and for the first time in my 25 years of life started living by myself did I start referring to my house as home. When I left the office I was now going home, when I got back from a trip I was excited to get home. All of a sudden the idea of home had shifted into something I created instead of what was given to me.

Even now the concept of home still causes some confusion among my family members. Amanda refers to her new townhouse in Patchogue as home, but sometimes I get confused as to what place she’s referring to when she talks about home. My brother Alex lives in Manhattan, and when either of us would go out to Long Island to see our parents occasionally we would say we’re going home. But neither of us were.

The quote from the movie continues, “You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.”

And I think that could not be more true. When I truly moved out and created a life for myself my trips back to New York were to see my parents and their house. My parents’ house. That’s what my childhood home had become. A place where my mother and father now resided in the absence of their children. And perhaps when I finally have kids and they refer to my house as home I’ll understand everything my parents do about the creation of a true home. Rather than a place where you simply put your shit.

As I walked through my parents’ house and saw box after box after box filled with their stuff I realized just how much stuff they had. And how much of it they wanted to give me to put in my house. My home. Most of the stuff was mine and I’m glad I got it. My older guitars, including the first guitar my parents ever bought me – a pearl white Fender Stratocaster. I played that thing so much I can’t even remember anything else for the ensuing months and years other than that guitar. My parents also gave me my books from when I was young – to be perfectly honest I’m glad to have all my Harry Potter books back. Say what you want, those books freaking ruled when I was in middle school and high school.

But my house was becoming my home. It was the image of what I wanted. Gone were the pictures of my parents on their trips around the world, of their friends, and distant relatives with whom I was still relatively unfamiliar. The pictures on my walls were of what and whom I wanted now. The furniture was purchased by me and was what I wanted. My bookshelf was filled with books I’ve read by authors I like. The historical epics from the American War of Independence and  World Wars I and II were replaced with Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris, Christopher Moore and Michael Chabon were my authors of choice. Not David McCullough and Tom Clancy as were my father’s favorites, and certainly not whatever the hell my mom read. I think Nicolas Sparks.

After my car was loaded with three guitars, three large bags of books, and three mementos of my childhood I closed the trunk like closing a book after reading the last page. I sighed. I was ready to go home.

I didn’t miss an imaginary place. I missed a real place. A place I created for me.

A place where a large bottle of vodka was sitting in my freezer. Where I had the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Because to me, that’s what I needed my home to be. A place without my parents. A place where I could watch midgets in furry costumes fight Imperial Stormtroopers. A place where I can write these words with a drink perspiring on the coffee table next to me. A place where I can sit back and see things a little bit clearer.

As clear as the glass of vodka in my hand.