"But my heart cried out for you, California. Oh California, I'm coming home. Oh make me feel good rock n' roll band. California, I'm your biggest fan. California, I'm coming home." California by Joni Mitchell
I have always had ambivalence about being home. My elementary school years were chaotic with my parents' chronic fighting, but also stable in some ways because we lived in the same four bedroom house on G Street, east of Grove Avenue, in Ontario, California. It was not the best neighborhood, but our house was bought brand new and later, my parents added a swimming pool. There were backyard barbecues and pool parties. My sisters and I swam every day and got every damn cent out of the cost of that swimming pool.
In my teenage years, my parents bought a bar, lost the bar and then their house. After they lost the house, we moved around. A lot. We were like nomads going from place to place. Every year from rental to rental. Ontario, Upland, Montclair and then back to Ontario.
After high school, my roaming continued. I lived with my sister in an apartment in Upland for a couple of years and later, we moved together to an apartment in La Verne. When I lost my job, I moved back in with my parents to a trailer park in Pomona. What saved me from the trailer park was transferring to UC Riverside and moving into student housing. After UCR, I moved to law school in Los Angeles and then after law school, to Houston and then to San Francisco. Finally, at thirty-five, I moved back home to the Inland Empire. When people ask me why I returned, I usually say, my dad died and my family needed me. In reality, I needed my family and felt an overwhelming need to tether myself to the familiar.
The funny thing about home is that even when you are not at home, you are thinking about home. Yet, when I am home, all I want is to do is leave. New York would be nice. I daydream of packing it all up and leaving everything behind. But, I know myself well enough by now to realize that I am never happy anywhere. I always feel as if I should be somewhere else, stuck in a perpetual kind of real estate limbo.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I rented out our North Fontana home and moved with his mother to the High Desert. My husband wants to stay out here and build a house of our own. I keep begging him to move back down the hill to Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga or to my dream town of Claremont. (How ironic is it-only native Inland Empire people will get this-that I am begging to move to Fontana?)
Today, I watched as my husband spent hours organizing the house and cleaning the backyard for Thanksgiving. My family is coming over and we are going to feast and hang out. I was supposed to be cleaning, but instead I stayed in bed and did nothing but talk on the phone and read, write and listen to some music.
After hours of hard work, my husband walked into the bathroom to take a shower and said, "Weren't you supposed to clean the bathroom?" I grunted that I would do it tomorrow. He didn't say anything, just shook his head. He knows me and understands that my laziness has its purpose. He is barbecuing dinner while I write this blog. "Come out of your cave," he coaxes as he blasts The Cure on the backyard's stereo speakers.
Does it really matter where I live? Isn't it more important who I live with? And that I have a husband who loves me and appreciates me with all my craziness and tendency to watch Hallmark movies, Food Network and/or write all day rather than cleaning and cooking. In the end, he gets me.
It is a cliche, but also a truism to write that home is where the heart is. And truth be told, my heart is right here.