Sunday, September 30, 2007

Home is where the dog sleeps

I’ve been thinking about home lately; it’s a subject I return to often. I don’t think it’s ever really far from my conscious mind. Am I at home here in Germany, now that we’ve moved into a new apartment we love and this past week finally installed a real, grown-up kitchen? Does a place filled with the things we carry around with us all our lives, the boxes and boxes and boxes filled with pictures and vases and blankets, mean that the place where these boxes are really and finally unpacked, home? That hasn’t been my experience.

Growing up in a Navy family meant we moved every three years or so. One move in particular stands out in my memory. I was about nine and I was sitting in the bathtub of our house in Virginia Beach crying. I didn’t want to leave my friends, the beach, the long bike rides through the neighborhood that we shared with the Mercury 7 astronauts. Virginia Beach was the place where I achieved my first measurable sense of independence. With my bike or skateboard I could go just about anywhere I wanted, to the beach or the bay, to the Roses five and ten cent store or over to my friend Mike Atkins house where his father, also a Naval Aviator, had the coolest red MG I had ever seen. The civilian kids had pets; we didn’t. Pets weren’t something that Navy kids could afford to have because you never knew when you might be moving again or where you might be moving to and pets were just not the sort of baggage you could quickly gather up and throw into the back of the station wagon.

When my father retired from the service and we moved into our new home, in yet another state, we adopted a neighborhood dog. His owners were an old couple who lived across the street and they had little time for him, so he spent most of his time at our house. One of the first things I did when I moved out on my own was to get a dog – my own dog – and having a pet was something of a declaration that I had finally settled down. I could take care of this creature, give him a home and not worry about having to clear him through customs in transit to some strange unnamed land. Of course I moved again, many times, and I was forced to give up my dogs, I had acquired a few, which was one of the hardest partings I ever made.

Recently HH has been asking about pets, he sees the other kids in the building who have dogs and cats and he would like to have one of his own. He also wants a baby brother but that is another story. I am reluctant to adopt another animal because there is some part of me that is still unsettled, the new kitchen notwithstanding. Is this really the place we will live for the rest of our lives? Am I finally home?

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