Zak and I had the opportunity to visit both of our family homes this Christmas. We drove to Seattle, flew to Lewiston (Idaho), flew back to Seattle and drove back to Oregon all in a seven day span; all this so we could see our loved ones. Although every Christmas break has entailed a trip home, this one felt different — even more different than last year, when I spent most of break in Australia and only had a few days to see my family. This break, I went home, only to realize that home had shifted. Home was our tiny apartment in Newberg; my previous home of 20 years was now my parents' house, and I was a guest.
This realization came after an accumulation of tiny observations. I found myself less certain where things were in the kitchen; even the dishwasher seemed unfamiliar (even though we've had it since I was in high school). I felt the need to ask if I could do laundry, and every towel and sheet felt new. I also seemed to have a different perspective of home than I usually do; it felt as though my familiar home had gotten a new haircut, and in trying to determine the difference I noticed many other things. I realized just how warm and inviting my parents' house is, and how much cooking and baking my mom really does.
I imagine this realization is common to many young adults; even though we've had our own apartment for half a year, it was Christmas that solidified it as our home. During previous breaks, returning home to my parents felt like a sigh of relief and a reminder that some things are permanent. Now, Zak and I wonder what to put as our "permanent address" on documents; our apartment is a temporary home and we will never really call our parents' houses homes again.
At first, this realization seemed sad; I've always assumed that home would always be home. After all, home is supposed to remain unchanged and welcoming forever, right? Yet this isn't a realistic or healthy assumption. While I will always love visiting my parents and the beautiful home they have, part of growing up is building your own sense of home and identity, separate from the one that was provided for you.
Although it feels bittersweet to say that my home has changed, I've been able to see how healthy it truly is. Parents are often stereotyped as wanting their children to remain unchanged forever; what I've realized is that children have the same problem. I am often surprised when I see my parents developing as people, because I have had this image of them as unchanging, just like my old home was supposed to remain the same forever. A little bit of distance and separation has taught me that my parents are people, subject to the same development and insight that I am. Each time I see them again, I get to be pleasantly surprised by the changes that have happened while I was gone.
I've also learned how lucky I am to have a childhood home that will probably be available for a long, long time. Even though I have begun to develop a new sense of home, my old home and childhood memories are always there waiting for me. Visiting my parents will always have double meaning: I will be looking into the past and the time I spent there, while also enjoying the present and each new change I see.