Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Lately I have been thinking about home, and what that means to me. I grew up in a beautiful, coastal town in New Jersey (no, that is not an oxymoron). My mom and her brothers grew up in the town over from us. When I was a kid, my entire extended family on my mother's side lived within 10 miles of my home. Which meant that for birthday parties and holidays, we were always surrounded by family.

My grandparents have since passed.

My parents 'retired' to Florida and then unretired and moved to Pennsylvania where my sister is.

Two of my cousins are in North Carolina and New York, respectively. Their parents defected to North Carolina a few years ago.

And now, only my Aunt and Uncle and their son live in NJ.

My husband and I are in Boston and we have every intention of staying here for a long time.

There is no 'home' to move back to.

My husband actually has a similar story in that he grew up in Northwest Connecticut and his parents moved to Ohio when he was in college and now live in Pittsburgh. His Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and grandparents are spread out throughout the country...so he has no place to go 'home' to either.

Having a child has really driven home to me the fact that I don't have a traditional 'home town'. So much advice for new parents centers around having a support system of family and friends nearby to rely on. But we don't have family here. And while we have healthy friendship relationships here, there is no guarantee that any of them are planning on staying in our area for the long haul...you see, they all have their own places back 'home' to eventually return to.

When I was young, I totally took advantage of the fact that we celebrated Christmas morning at home with my parents and then headed two towns over to meet up with all the rest of my relatives at my grandparents' house for the big family holiday meal. Looking back, I wish I realized how lucky I was to be able to experience an intimate celebration with my mom and dad and sister on Christmas morning and then also get a rousing, heart-warming full family experience in the evening.

Here in Boston, we don't have that option. We will have to decide if we want to be in our own home for Christmas or visiting someone else's home in another state...but we can't have both. I wonder what Little G will grow up thinking is traditional...spending Christmas away from home? Spending Christmas quietly at home with just his mom and dad? Will he ever get to experience what life is like when you grow up where your entire family lives?

Perhaps the answer lies in challenging our definition of family. We are not the only ones of our friends here in the Boston area who are living far away from family. And slowly, our circle of friends is joining us in the great adventure of parenthood. Perhaps in the absence of relatives in the area, what we need to do is embrace our friendships and create a new type of family. Instead of having a quiet Christmas at home and then meeting all the Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and Grandparents later we can congregate with friends and neighbors and their children.

It's a good idea, in theory. The problem is, as time marches forward, our friends and neighbors keep moving back home.

Do you have a 'home' to go back to?


  1. If the definition of 'home' is lots of family, then I have never had a home. Growing up, neither of my parents had any family in Pennsylvania, where we were located. So I have absolutely no idea what it is like to live near a relative.

    But, you know what? I loved it. Going to visit relatives was a real adventure -- a true vacation. "Going to grandma's house" was a really big deal, and something I looked forward to for weeks. All of my husband's family lives within a 30 minute radius, and seeing them weekly for lunch was just... normal. Nothing exciting. Nothing to look forward to. Not an adventure. Just a regular weekly occurrence.

    I think we all prefer what we grew up with, because my husband thinks living near family is 1000x better, and I personally wish that when we have children, we'd live away from our families, so they can experience that super exciting anticipation of going to spend a week with their grandparents.

    Think of it this way -- instead of one 'home' where everyone is, G will grow up with several 'homes' in various locations, where he knows he is loved and will have lots of fun.

  2. We've run into this a little - my family is all in Utah and husband's family is all still in Las Vegas... but we aren't sure we want to live there. We love our friends in San Diego, but they keep moving away for jobs or to go back to family... and we're left here wondering why we stay! The sunshine helps!

  3. my entire family (grandparents, aunts, uncles cousins, etc on both sides of the family) still live within about an hour of each other in the Chicago suburbs.
    I'm the only one way out of the area in SD!
    It's still great to go home and enjoy getting to see everyone at once (E's extended family is small and very spread out, but we are right near his parents)

    I think we will probably always be the only ones far from 'home', and I'm ok with that because we will have our own home wherever we are.

  4. I'm a nomad too. Mr. N has a hometown though. With copious relatives, warm and inviting homes, and many many memories. I'm happy to have been welcomed by these wonderful people. My parents and I moved a lot growing up, and they've moved more since I finished school. They live in a different state from my grandparents, who in turn live in a different state from me. I also haven't any brothers or sisters. I guess home is wherever I am, at the moment!