Hey, wait a minute. I am home. Isn’t it where I live? Yes and no.
Many of us who live somewhere other than where we grew up, consider home in two places, a split personality of sorts. My original home is in Solingen, Germany, where my father still lives in the same house he moved to in 1946 — where I spent my childhood, went to school, dated boys and became an adult.
I moved away more than 25 years ago, yet I still consider it, I admit a bit nostalgically, my home. Not much has changed inside my parents’ house. The furniture, the decorations, the garden, even the smells of my mother’s soap are just like I remember them. Meanwhile, Solingen has gone through a huge transformation, most of it for the worse. The familiar shops are gone, the hills behind my father’s house cramped with new villas and high rises.
Despite its similarities I feel like a stranger when I visit. I don’t quite belong despite the fact I still have old friends from high school. The more I seek to retrace my steps and look for the familiar, the less I find it. Nothing quite fits any more.
I think of people who seek but can’t go back to their homes — like the pioneers who left their homes and countries never to return — because they are unable to travel or because their villages and homes no longer exist. At least I am lucky that way. My father still lives and even my home still stands.
I return to plunge into my past, scenes edged into my memory, my grandfather, Opa Artur, digging in the garden, my mother sitting under the plum tree knitting yet another immaculate sweater. But memories are fickle, they are fleeting and the more I try to attach myself, the fuzzier they get. Yet I am lucky to have them as part of my past and I commit to cherish them. I get my fill and soon return to my other home — in the U.S., my sweet husband, my children and my dog. Where I belong — too!