Where are you from?

For most people, the question “Where are you from?” elicits a simple answer.  It’s a diagnostic, right?  A way of pinning down who you are.

“I grew up in Fishers,” my husband says, “back when there was only one stoplight and tractors drove down mainstreet.”  Mmhmm, people nod.  A hometown boy. He knows how to get to that parking garage downtown that is cheaper and that place you should go to see the really wild Christmas light display.  He still complains when the city changes any little thing from the way it was when he was a kid.

“Where are you from?” causes some consternation for military kids.  Growing up, I never knew how to answer it. I mean, we might have been living in Korea, or California, or Germany, or Illinois, but I wasn’t from those places.  Sometimes I said, “Well my family is mostly from North and South Carolina” but when it comes to those states I’m just enough of an insider to know exactly how outside I’ll always be.  Eventually I began answering with a shrug and an apologetic laugh, “Oh I’m not from anywhere really; this is my 19th address, so home is wherever my stuff is!”

Then, a few weeks ago, I went back to my tenth college reunion.  At my school every class can come back every year, and many people do.  I hadn’t been back at all.  Still, ten years later, as my former roommate and I drove up Witherspoon past the Street and Firestone and Woody Woo, I felt like I might cry.  I have MISSED this place! I spent the weekend with my best girl friends, ran into tons of people I know, and complained about all the changes.  What?  They rearranged the ‘Wa!  But the pickles are supposed to be to the left!!! I knew how to get places.  I knew exactly what to say.  I didn’t feel eccentric or weird or like a snob.  When I talked about something I find interesting, I didn’t worry about saying the wrong thing or using the wrong words.  I didn’t feel like people were looking at me and wondering what on earth I was doing there.  Because I belonged there.  At some point it hit me:

I’m FROM here.

Now I get it.  Being from somewhere is a really, tremendously awesome thing.  It makes me happy just to know I’m from somewhere even if it’s nowhere near where I actually live.

This made me think about how people are programmed to long for home.  I think that’s because none of us, no matter how rooted, is really from here. Even my husband, living just a few miles from the house where he grew up, misses his hometown the way it used to be, and misses the people that used to live there who are gone now.  It seems to me that we think we’re missing home, when really we’re missing Home – the bigger concept, the fullness of Home, the eternal.

The Bible says Heaven is going to be like a celebration feast in a great city.  Maybe it will be a little like a reunion too.  “Hey, isn’t that so-and-so?  Look at how cute her kids are!”  “Wow, I haven’t thought about him in years, I wonder what he’s been up to?”

I know it’s a little bizarre to say “I had a great time at my reunion and it made me want to die!” but in some way I feel like that little burst of happiness I got from feeling from somewhere is kind of a foretaste of heaven.  If so, it’s going to be awesome when we all sit around that table and think, “YES.  I’m from here.”

7 thoughts on “Where are you from?

  1. I can say confidently that I am from Devon (South West England) as that is where I was born and spent much of my life (except for a few years in Asia). However, I get the same ‘home’ feeling when I go back to Surrey (South East England) where I studied for my PhD (and met my husband). I think, perhaps, I feel even more at home there. I find it interesting that I can get the same feelings from a place I only spent just over three years in as I do from where I grew up. The feeling isn’t limited to place either. When I get together with the people I spent time with at Surrey I get the feeling of belonging, regardless of where we meet up. I wonder if this is because the place we are geographically from is really just an accident of birth, but where we study, what we study and the people we mix with are driven by our own tastes and preferences. Our university ‘homes’ are ones we choose for ourselves.

    I sympathise completely with your words “I knew how to get places. I knew exactly what to say. I didn’t feel eccentric or weird or like a snob.”. I miss that! Where we live now (West Midlands), though lovely, will never feel like home and my husband and I stand out like sore thumbs with our accents and educational background. It is nice to feel like you belong, so I cherish my visits to Devon and Surrey. You can’t beat that ‘I belong here’ feeling.

    I love your thoughts on Heaven giving us those same feelings. Beautifully expressed and a wonderful thought. I really enjoyed this post.

    Sorry about the epic comment, but your post really got me thinking 🙂

    1. Thanks Paula. That’s an interesting thought about choosing the home where we study. I think you have something there, because it’s a different thing entirely than choosing where to live, it’s more about choosing a specific community. It’s also nice to know I’m not the only one who has thought something like that!

  2. Beautifully written, and beautiful thoughts! I rmember what you said as we were laeving Alabama, after only living there 10 months. We had been homeschooling, studying the Civil War, visiting homesites of my ancestors and researching the AL branch of our family tree. you said, “I wish we could live here a little longer…I almost have a Southern accent!” It spoke of your longing to belong, to show your southern roots. As you mention about being back on campus and being free to speak as yourself, our conversation, vocabulary, and thoughtful expressions also change when we are among our brothers and sisters in Christ; just a glimpse of how, when we get to Heaven, we will all speak the same language!

  3. I thought this post was absolutely terrific. Looking forward to my Father’s house. It’s a big, big, house, you know, with lots and lots of room. And I’ll be rigth at home there, too.

  4. Now that I am married to an air force kid, I have an appreciation for people who don’t have a hometown like I do. An attachment to something or somewhere permanent is still just as important and necessary. It is easy to claim a hometown but I think it takes more care and thought to claim something truly meaningful.

  5. I have moved around a lot as well, though probably not as far or frequently as you. The longest I’ve ever lived in one house is four years and I didn’t graduate with the kids I went to elementary with. I left the state to go to college, and stayed. My husband and I recently tore up roots, left the city and moved to a rural location (surprise) four years ago. And so on and so forth.

    Because of this, I’ve “put down roots” in several spots. I know the feeling of “home”, in a peripherial sense. But (and this is probably magnified living near such a small town), what I’ve really noticed is how saddened I am not to have HISTORY with the people I come in contact with on a weekly basis. They don’t know me. They don’t know my family. (While I see their roots and family and homeplace all the time.) We have no history. It is hard to feel, like a previous commenter described, like a “sore thumb”.

    I really noticed within the last couple of years how good it feels to be “known”. I have found that I take even greater comfort from my college friends, who I have now known for over a decade. Likewise, when I visit “home” (my parents’ house), and I see people I knew as a teenager, I relish that history. The cemented feeling of knowing and being known, even if we don’t see each other regularly. We know each other’s core. And with that, I have to remember, even “there” (where my parents live), I only spent 5 years actually living there. I wonder what it would be like to be somewhere that people knew you from babyhood…?

    And even more, I’ve been thinking about “home” for my children. Do I really want them to reasonate with where we live NOW as their homeplace? Where they are FROM? I’m not sure. (Though I do think it is snobbery to feel that way.)

    Definitely something I’ve been thinking about recently.

    (I love your mom’s rememberances of your wistfulness at staying in AL. Presh.)

    1. I’ve thought the same thing about where I want my children to feel “home.” That is a really tricky thing. And yes, I think it’s snobby too, but it’s not the only thing I’m a snob about as you’ve probably noticed. 😉

      Also I love that you used the word presh. Such a fabulous abbreviation, sadly underused.

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