Across country, pop, and punk-rock music, there’s a strange universality in how these various genres present the concept of home.
Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” speaks to a wistful longing for a home and time that was and the image that’s evoked is of the physical space and the meaning that the space holds.
“Ma’am I know you don’t know me from Adam / But these handprints on the front steps are mine / And up those stairs, in that little back bedroom / is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar”
Interestingly enough, on the other end of the spectrum, Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home,” is a different kind of wistful longing of a home that never really was home. She similarly calls out to the importance of the physical space in giving meaning to this feeling of “homeness.”
“This is our temporary home, it’s not where we belong / Windows and rooms that we’re passing through / This is just a stop on the way to where we’re going / I’m not afraid because I know / this is our temporary home.”
What bothers me here is that she further confirms that you should be afraid if you don’t have a permanent home–that a temporary home is not really a home worth having.
In pop music, Michael Buble’s “Home” is a well-known tune that I must not miss in this review. I find it interesting that in this song, there’s a very clear demarcation of what constitutes home and what doesn’t. This song comes from the perspective of someone who is on the road quite a lot, but there is once again the reminder that home is a static place that doesn’t change, even if we are changing and constantly in motion.
“Another aeroplane / another sunny place / I’m lucky I know / But I wanna go home / Mmm, I got to go home / Let me go home / I’m just too far / from where you are / I wanna come home”
What about rock music? Daughtry’s “Home” speaks to home as a place where you fit, where you belong. Here is a tune that contemplates what it means to return someplace you left and it posits that regardless of where your life takes you, there’s something universally grounding about home.
“I’m not running from, no, I think you got me all wrong / I don’t regret this life I chose for me / But these places and these faces are getting old / I said these places and these faces are getting old / So I’m going home, I’m going home”
So, why all these reviews of what it means to go home, to be home? And more importantly, what is missing from all of these interpretations of home?
Figuring out what home means to me is something I have struggled with my entire life and I anticipate will continue to be something I wrestle with in the future. I have lived in twenty different physical homes (apartments, houses, dorm rooms) in the last 25 years. I’ve lived in five cities and three different countries (while my parents currently live in a fourth), with my parents, with roommates, and on my own. Over the years, I’ve learned to trust in the inevitability of change and mobility. I enjoy decorating a new space and making it reflect who I am at that point in my life, but I also have my rhythms of packing up and moving down pat.
Yet when my mother informed me this week that she and my dad are selling the dining table, sideboard, and curio cabinet we’ve had (and moved from apartment to apartment) for the last 15 years, I couldn’t help but feeling wrenchingly sad.
A few years ago, when they moved to Singapore, they gave away the red couch that had featured in the various apartments we’d lived in over 12 years. I was not okay with that decision. That was my couch! That was the couch I would crash on after coming home from soccer practice in middle school. That was the couch I had read all the Harry Potter books on. That was the couch on which my mom and I would fight over who got the extra comfy seat when we’d sit to watch “Friends.” Despite what four walls we lived in, this couch stayed constant. So, even though I was starting graduate school and no longer lived with my parents, it felt like a grave injustice for this couch to be given away, just like that.
While houses and apartments may not have quite as strong a hold over my sense of groundedness and roots, it turns out that there is something powerful about the physical spaces we occupy–whether that space be a backyard or a plump, red couch. For all my external bravado about every new change bringing adventure and new places to be explored, I’m still figuring out what home means to me and it’s a frustrating process of yearning and acceptance.
When my parents sell these last three pieces of furniture–which I didn’t realize until now, are the images I’ve conjure up whenever I’ve thought of what has been home for the first 20-odd years of my life–it will become even more important for me to work on a new concept of home that makes sense for where I am now in my life. Returning to the question I’d posed earlier, in reference to these songs about home, what is missing for me is a representation of home as a living, breathing, changing concept. Or alternatively, home as living in people–living in the people I love and living within me. I would love to hear a song that celebrates finding rootedness and home within oneself, despite all other chaos and external change.
For now, I’ve had Edwarde Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ “Home” on repeat for the last week.
“Home, let me come home / Home is wherever I’m with you / Ahh home, yes I am ho-oh-ome / Home is when I’m alone with you / Alabama, Arkansas / I do love my ma and pa / Moats and boats and waterfalls / Alley-ways and pay phone calls / Ahh home, let me go home / Home is wherever I’m with you”
Moats and boats and waterfalls, home is wherever I’m with the people I love. And you know what, home is also wherever I’m with me.