“Where are you from?” I answered this question dozens of times this summer, from Buffalo, NY to Orlando, FL to Saratoga, NY. I think that most people are really asking “where’s home for you?” and it can be a complicated answer for me, even more so for my Navy-family-born children who’ve never lived in the same place for more than 3 consecutive years of their lives.
In my heart my hometown will always be the place of my birth–Buffalo, New York. I’m a descendant of Poles on my Dad’s side and an Anglo mix on my Mom’s, plus some Czech and French thrown in for exotic affect. Yet I left Western New York to see the world via the US Navy when I was only 19 (I know, I know, I look like it was only a few years ago but it’s really almost a few decades ago). My four years at the US Naval Academy was the longest time I lived anywhere while on active duty.
Each tour has yielded new discoveries for me. Geographically and culturally it’s thrilling to see and meet so many different ways of life, just in our own great country. Add the overseas locations and I’ve experienced a cornucopia of global ways of life.
In spite of all of the aforementioned, I’ve had to come face-to-face with what home means to me these past several weeks. Our family was on a planned vacation home to the States when we found out we couldn’t go back to our home in Russia. Peat fires had spewed toxic fumes and waste into the air in and around Western Russia including Moscow.
At times my home was with extended family, enjoying a great meal or laugh together. Home was sitting with my writer sisters at Romance Writers of America’s national conference in Orlando, FL, catching up on career and life goals and dreams. Home was a day at Daytona beach with a BFF, or with my kids at the Jersey Shore. Home was spending the morning with my husband in a coffee shop. He surfed the net while I wrote. Home was crawling through a yarn shop in Saratoga Springs, or hearing my favorite band sing my favorite song in my hometown. Home was another BFF bringing me flowers or great family friends throwing us a crab feast in Annapolis, MD.
Still, home is more to me.
As I looked at the photos coming across the newswires my heart broke for the Russian people who lost so much, and too many who lost their lives. I was here in the States with family but my heart was with the Russian people and our embassy colleagues, US and other, who had to face the crisis head-on. Where “home” is for me isn’t so complicated anymore. It’s where I’ve left my heart most recently, where my family makes its home for the time being.
When the evacuation orders are lifted and we return to Moscow, I know I’m going “home.”