It is the question we all dread as military families and expats alike: “Where are you from?” It happened today on a virtual class call for my 6-year old daughter. After a long pause, and her eyes darting to me for a definitive answer, she said, “Virginia.” My face fell flat, and my heart instantly began to ache. My sweet daughter could only think to define home as where she was born, yet has never lived. So, how do we define home as families who relocate frequently, especially for our children?
Home is a Location
I was born in Michigan, raised in Texas, and moved away upon falling in love with an active duty military member in 2005. Going home used to mean going to the house and hometown where I was raised. As a military spouse, I have always taken comfort in going to this familiar place. Today, I find myself pondering where home truly is for myself and my family.
People say: “Home is where your heart and family are.” Yet, home is so much more than these two things. Home is where you find stability and peace. Home is a hug to surround you when you are most vulnerable. Home is where you spend the holidays and is filled with a lifetime of memories. Therefore, home is complicated to define as a military or expat family. How do we provide a stable home for our family and children? How do we create the storybook scene we long to have?
Home is What We Make It
For families like ours, home is indeed what we choose to make it. We can choose to identify with the hometown in which one of us was raised. We can make home where we are at any given moment, albeit a temporary house. Perhaps home is someplace we plan to settle in the future after our military or expat time is complete. I have tried on each of these styles. None truly fit or feel like home.
We can hang photographs, unpack all of the boxes, and display memorabilia. However, I find my home never quite feels as I expected it would at this point in my life. I am approaching middle-age, yet we do not own a house, nor has it been possible to plant any roots. As I think about this, I ask myself, “Do we need either of these to have a home?”
Home is Comfort
This year has been a year of extraordinary circumstances, tragic events, constant change, and continuous unknowns. Come to think of it; this year feels a lot like the life of a military family. 2020 has made me long for home now more than ever. Currently, I find myself in Houston, visiting family. Our assigned duty location is in The Bahamas. Coming to see my mother, I am no longer staying in my childhood house. Instead, I am in her new residence, in a city that is so much more than unfamiliar.
What I have come to realize, however, is that I am home. I have a sense of peace by merely being in Texas. You see, there is something to be said about the familiarity of the grocery store chain, local fast-food, Tex-Mex cuisine, huge state flags, country music, and proximity to family and friends. This feeling, in reality, has nothing to do with Texas. Instead, it has to do with the many senses that provide comfort, healing, laughter, sadness, joy, and countless other emotions and memories.
We may not have control over where the military, a company, or organization sends us on this journey. However, we do have control over making ourselves at home wherever we may land. It is up to us to determine not where, but rather what, home means to our family. Watching my military child adapt to many new locations, houses, schools, and friends proves how much she can teach me about home. Ultimately, I have realized home is so much more of a feeling than a physical place