Going Home


“Where are you from?” I’m constantly asked. I’ve lived in so many places that my answer may depend on how I feel that day. But my real home is where the family is.

“Hey, do you want to dance?”

I turned around to see a guy I vaguely recognized looking at me quizzically. The lights were dim and the music was loud, but I thought he was in my English class.

“Sure,” I said, and we made our way through the crowd to the dance floor.

“So, what’s your name?” he yelled. I couldn’t hear him very clearly above the music and voices surrounding us, but I knew what he said anyway. The dance conversation at BYU is always the same. It goes: “What’s your name? What’s your major? Where’re you from?”

I know this seems like an innocent conversation and nothing to complain about, but that third question is a real problem for me. I know my name, and I’ve known my major since I was a freshman, but to answer “Where are you from?” is practically impossible.

You see, my dad was in the U.S. Air Force the whole time I lived at home, and we lived in nine different places before I turned 18. So you tell me—where am I from?

Sometimes I give my origin according to my mood. Do I feel like I’m from Nebraska today, or is it more an Alaska day? Maybe I feel Southern and I’ll say Georgia, but then there’s always Colorado, Arizona, or California, if I feel like being from the West.

Of course, this method can get dangerous if friends start comparing notes, so I generally stick to a more honest answer. Lately I’ve taken to saying where my parents live right now. It saves time and gives curious people the definite answer they crave. It’s especially useful for loud and crowded dance floors.

One day I spent a lot of time thinking about where I was from. I tried to imagine a house I would call home, streets that would bring back childhood memories, and friends that could remember elementary school with me. And I realized that for me, home is not any of those things.

For me, home is my family. My two brothers, my sister, and my parents are what I think of when I think of home. Sure, I remember the houses we’ve lived in, but after my family left, the houses weren’t home anymore. I’ve gone back to look at some of them, and there always seems to be something missing.

I remember places I played when I was a child, too, but I don’t have any reason to go back to them now that my family is gone. And the only people who have known me since childhood are the members of my family.

I remember certain pieces of furniture that have been in our different houses, and I admit that I associate those with home. But they could change, just like the houses and towns and states have changed, and I would still have a home. Everything about a house can change, and as long as the love of the family that once lived there stays the same, there is still a home.

At times in my life I have craved a hometown and dreamed of one house to call home.

Now that I’m on my own, I know it’s not a house that I miss but my family. They are my home. Maybe I did miss out on some traditional aspects of home-town America. But I think I gained something beyond the memories of a particular house on a particular street. Instead, I know that no matter where my family happens to be, I can always go home.

[photos] Photography by Philip S. Shurtleff