Home sweet … home?

I can still remember it now, the light blue tufted carpet in a vacant bedroom. I was sitting on the floor but I do not remember what I was doing. I recall the emptiness of our small house on Hermansau as we prepared to move from the City of Saginaw into Saginaw Township to a house my parents rented on Wellesley.

At our new Wellesley house, I remember walking into the door and seeing a cheaply constructed brick-and-mortar façade in the brown carpet-covered living room, along with random blue and black tiles underneath my shoes.

The first thing I did — instead of being a rambunctious 3-year-old and running throughout the new wide open place I would call home for the next 21 years — was run to the front closet, opened it up and stood in it. I’m pretty sure I sat there for almost five minutes before I decided to explore my new abode.

The same brown carpeting in the living room covered the dining room as well, and the kitchen had a yellowish, country-themed linoleum floor, if I remember correctly, and the big bathroom had the same floor as well.

The only thing I remember from the Hermansau house is what has been explained earlier. Moving into the Wellesley house was when, I believe, my life really began.

Before my parents started their business, our house was three bedrooms; the master bedroom for the parental units, a single bedroom for my brother Ben, and John and I slept on bunk beds in the small room. I’ll never forget the time John, while lying on the bottom bunk, thought it would be clever to lift up the top bunk with his legs — where I lay — and thus failed to lower the mattress correctly thus causing myself and it to topple upon him. All the while he and I are laughing hysterically.

Over the next 22 years, I forged and reinforced lasting relationships in and around what I would call home. I grew up with the best family and the best set of friends anyone could ever ask for. Every day, rain, snow or shine, we were always outside. Unless I was at school or a family function, I was outside playing some sort of sport or activity with “the neighborhood kids.” Many of which I am still friends with to this day.

Fast forward.

August 2004, just two months after graduating from high school, I moved away (eight hours, 455 miles) to college at Michigan Tech in Houghton, Mich. Who would have though one could travel so long and so far and still stay in the same state? Well, moving to Houghton changed my life.

When I would return to Saginaw from Houghton once a month, especially during the winter months, I would explain to my friends and family in Saginaw what it was like up north. I would always use “we” and “our” in reference to how life was lived in Houghton, and subsequently referred to Saginaw and its inhabitants as “you” and “your.”

It took moving to Houghton and back again, twice, for me to seriously question exactly what, and where, is “home.”

I used to classify “home” as the place I lived; where I my belongings were, where my parents lived, where I would rest my head, where my bed was.

Enter fall 2008.

Ben moved to South Florida four years prior and John had been living with his girlfriend/fiancée/now wife. I moved to Mount Pleasant to continue my education and along with me went almost all of my belongings, including my ever-so-important bed.

Does this mean Mount Pleasant is my home, since it is where my belongings were, where I rested my head at night, and where my bed was? At that time, no, Saginaw was my home.

Eight months (April 2009) and a few transgressions later, when speaking with my best friend Kelly how we defined “home,” I had mentioned the following to her via email:

What really is the definition of home? Is it where we grew up? The place we lived longest in our lives? The definition of home is so elastic there is no clear guideline as to what exactly makes home, home. I no longer consider Saginaw my home, but I find myself currently without a place to call home. Mount Pleasant is not (yet) my home. I may tell people I am going “home” to Saginaw, but that city no longer holds that meaning for me. Saginaw is the place I grew up; Saginaw is not my home. Saginaw is where my family is; Saginaw is not my home. Saginaw is where my friends are; Saginaw is not my home. Saginaw is where my childhood is; yet Saginaw is not my home.

Saginaw is a shithole these days. Going back there to spend time in Saginaw is dull. I do not mean my family is dull, but every time I go back I wish for things to be the way they were back in the day, maybe even as recently as when I left; but they’re not. I’ve grown and moved on, as did the people who were part of my life in Saginaw. I feel it is a part of growing up.

Over the last 30 years, well more than half of their lives, my parents have created their family in Saginaw. Together they raised three completely different, yet strikingly similar men; three brothers. With exception to their own brothers and sisters, everything my parents have is in Saginaw. Saginaw is their home. My oldest brother Ben moved to South Florida in 2004, but to him, Saginaw is his home. He is from Saginaw, his fiancé is from Saginaw, and they’re getting married in Saginaw. Saginaw is their home. My other brother John still resides in Saginaw with his wife. Saginaw is his home. I, however, do not feel the same. Saginaw is not my home.

Present time, October 2010, Saginaw had fulfilled my loose interpretation of home for the last 12 months, but I never really felt I was “home” when I was there. Because I moved to and from Mount Pleasant three times in the last three years, and even spent time in Saginaw AND Mount Pleasant the last two summers, neither place really felt like home.

I always felt I was in a period of transition, living somewhat like a nomad until graduating college and moving elsewhere to start a career and family (because if you really know me, you know I have no plans of staying in Michigan).

And then comes the ol’ adage, “you never know what you really have until it’s gone.”

Over the last four months, finalized on Oct. 24, my parents moved out of the Wellesley house into an apartment; something requiring less maintenance with their youngest child (me!) not around to lend a helping hand anymore.

The last two months, I’ve spent every weekend back in Saginaw helping my parents get settled in the new place and cleaning out the old house. The new place, as expected, doesn’t feel like home.

When the Wellesley house was finally cleaned out, completely void of proof the Schanz family were residents the previous 22 years,  it REALLY hit me… that was my home. It had been my home all along. It was where my parents were — where (some of) my belongings were. Even when I told Kelly I felt I no longer had a place to call my home, I acutally did, I just failed to notice.

Once it was gone, I then realized what I had.

All ties with the Wellesley house are now gone, with the exception of a box of photos I took as a child we found while cleaning. Even then, the box currently sits in “my” room at the new place, the place that doesn’t feel like home, and probably never will.

With just over seven months to go until graduating from college, I find myself in that period of transition, only this time it’s a reality. I am without a place to call home, so here’s to finishing college and making a home for myself somewhere.

“When a writer knows home in his heart, his heart must remain subtly apart from it. He must always be a stranger to the place he loves, and its people.” [William Morris, 1834-1896].

Until next time…

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