all rhodes lead to providence

editors on home

Someone, at some point, apparently, said “Home is where the heart is.” This week, we asked Post- editors about their homes. Whether you’ll be spending your spring break at home, Brown, or elsewhere, we hope you have a relaxing and warm few days, and we’ll see you in two weeks!Monica Chin, managing editor of Features

I moved around a lot as a kid. I was born in Beijing, China. I moved to Switzerland when I was five. Two years later, I moved to Indiana. One year later, I moved to Maryland. A year after that, I moved to Pennsylvania. I’ve moved twice more, and now my mom, my dad, and I live in three places: my mom in the Western suburbs of Philadelphia; my dad in Shaoxing, China; and I in Providence, Rhode Island. In light of all this I suppose it’s no great surprise that the concept of a home doesn’t resonate particularly strongly with me. I don’t mean that I don’t literally understand the pull of a home: I used to dream of a house with a white picket fence, a red wagon, a cat, a dog, and two children (I’m a single child). I demanded of my poor parents all the conventional trappings I associated with home. But now, miles away from both of them and every other place I’ve ever lived in, I’ve learned a kind of carelessness toward my surroundings. The brick and stone and glass walls around Brown are comforting in their familiarity, but they are just walls, after all. -YW

I grew up in a home in New York City; however, as most of this home was neither homey nor comforting, my real home became my bed. And, as childhood habits tend to do, this behavior has continued beyond the confines of New York City. In the dorms it wasn’t all that recognizable—the only place beyond my bed to spend my time was the desk chair that someone decided to make half-rocking chair, and thus a precarious perch for my fragile psyche—but now that I have an apartment of my own, it’s become apparent that I do, in fact, have a phobia of spaces beyond the confines of my mattress. I spend plenty of hours on the couch with my good friend the TV—but every time, before long, that little niggle of anxiety would worm its way into my stomach. And the niggle would become a wiggle. And all of a sudden I would be sitting in my own living room with a sand monster in my chest, roaring for the safety of my comforter. This isn’t a comfortable trait. I don’t enjoy feeling alienated in what is supposed to be my own space. And maybe one day I’ll grow out of it. But for now, if I have a mattress, a frame, and a nearby outlet, I’m home. – MF

When I applied to Brown, I considered myself a Writer with a capital W and so I used each seemingly trivial question on the application materials to emphasis my writerliness. Looking back on it, I cringe. It’s trying painfully hard. If it had been my choice, I probably wouldn’t have admitted me; I would’ve written back and told me to throw out my thesaurus. But I still like my answer to the question about where I called home:

“I’ve lived in vibrant, sprawling Houston since birth, in the same quiet green house. As I’ve grown, I’ve discovered the city. As a child, the peaceful streets of my neighborhood; as a young teen, the winding, wooded streets near school; as a driver, the chaotic freeways and boundless possibilities.”

Not bad for weighing in at 299 of the 300 character limit. What’s surprising is how little of my impression of it has changed: Despite my new perspective after four years here, I still envision home as quiet green house, suburban sidewalks, wooded streets, freeways. I was expecting to have some moment of clarity during my last couple visits home, but I failed to realize that they would indeed be my last. After graduation comes apartment hunting and Europe and work with no time for a last trip to Houston.

My parents told me a week ago that they were going to sell my car, and two days later it was done. If I do indeed go back this summer, it won’t be the same in a literal sense—I’ll no longer be able to spend time on those concrete skyways, except as a passenger.

This is normal. Virtually everyone I know is leaving behind a home at home and a home at school. But I’m feeling strangely ungrounded without the grounding loops of highway and my portable metal-and-plastic home. -LS

I was sick this week. I woke up Monday morning with cold sweats and some kind of vengeful headache and just a general confusion about what was happening to my body. I wanted nothing more than to call my mom and tell her I couldn’t go to school today. She would call in sick for me, bring me saltines, and I could spend the day evading responsibilities and cuddling with my dog, maybe even getting through a solid half-season of “Arrested Development.” The college version of a sick day proved to be much more depressing: It consisted of me slurping down some lukewarm tea at the V-Dub, shivering my way through classes, and upon getting back to my dorm room, bleakly staring out upon the parking lot outside my window while anxiety over undone work slowly but surely intensified in the pit of my stomach.

I’m going to go home for break and it’s going to be really, really nice. And even though I’ll be doing everything I’ve dreamed of while at school—sleeping like a normal human being, finally catching up on every Netflix obligation I’ve ever had, eating my dad’s pancakes—I know I’ll just be wanting to get back to Brown before break is over. For sure, there’ll be more sick days, depressing Ratty meals, and times when I need to get away from here and get back to somewhere I can claim to understand. But there is something to be said for figuring out how to live in a place that I don’t understand. On days when my body gives up, I’m reminded of how untethered I truly am, and it feels kind of nice. It’s a home that stays with me. -HM

It might surprise people who know me now, but I didn’t used to be such an ardent defender of my home state. Before I came to Brown, I liked Delaware, but I didn’t need to talk about it all the time, because everyone else I knew also lived in Delaware—what was there to say about it? When I got to Brown, I knew some things would be different: I had to get used to giving out my area code when exchanging phone numbers with new people—who knew that some states had more than one area code?—and adjust to accounting for sales tax (which is honestly still the bane of my existence). But growing up in my little Delaware bubble didn’t prepare me for how little information people outside that bubble would have about the First State. During my first weeks of college, I heard all kinds of wild comments about Delaware’s existence: My new classmates told me they thought Delaware was in New England, near Chicago, or that they didn’t even know it was a state. My freshman roommate confessed several months into the semester that when she first got the email about us rooming together, she read “Roommate State/Country: DE” and thought that I hailed from Denmark. Upon introducing myself to new people, over and over again I heard: “Wow, I’ve never met anyone from Delaware before!” And so a Delaware evangelist was born.

Ever since those first few weeks at Brown, I’ve made it my mission to increase the Delaware knowledge of every person I know—a feat that’s not hard to achieve when most people’s starting knowledge is zero. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, so it makes sense that my devotion to Delaware has only grown since I’ve moved away. But it’s more than that. By spreading the Delaware gospel to my friends (who listen to my proselytizing with more patience than I deserve), I’ve shared some of the things I treasure most about my home: the occasional Joe Biden or Aubrey Plaza sighting, free Rita’s water ice on the first day of spring, the beautiful beaches in the southern part of the state. Friends come up to me now sometimes and say, “I read/saw/heard this thing about Delaware, and I thought of you.” And I smile, happy to have succeeded in my First State Awareness mission, and happier still to be reminded of home. -AA

Marilyn opened the front door quietly at 2:42 p.m. But Jeff heard the key turning and awoke from his comfortable mid-afternoon slumber in the easy chair by the indoor plant. The indoor plant, what an odd detail. Yes, but now it is apparent exactly what type of people these are—the type of people who keep indoor plants and are sure to water them regularly, the type of people who never forget to set their coffee pot the night before, the type of people who got a dog before they had children to make sure they were ready. On this day, the first day Marilyn ever woke Jeff from his daily 2:17—2:46 p.m. nap between lunch and afternoon snack, everything changed. Surprised at his rude awakening, Jeff let out a grunt and an oof and struggled his way to standing. With a glance and an eyeroll, Marilyn made her way to the kitchen. Jeff tried to recover. He tried to regain his semblance of normalcy, even though the balance had been thrown all out of whack; his entire day was now four minutes off, and he desired the extra four minutes of sleep he was missing. It would take weeks for his sleep time to regain an equilibrium. Nevertheless, he followed Marilyn—no, trudged after Marilyn into the kitchen.

“Busy day at the lab?” Jeff asked. A pause. Another pause. Marilyn’s mouth hung agape. Jeff had broken their number six unspoken house rule: leave work at work. (Their first five, in order, are no socks in bed, spaghetti every Thursday, double bolt the door before bed, never neglect coasters—condensation is evil, and always, always floss before brushing.) Jeff would not be deterred.

“How was the lab today? Get anything done?”

Marilyn realized it would be that kind of night.

“No, I went to the lab and got nothing accomplished,” she snapped. Jeff recoiled. His sleep deprivation and resulting irritation was seeping into his actions. Marilyn continued: “Well, if you really want to know, today was precisely okay. Very okay.”

“Well, what’d you do?” Jeff asked, figuring that it couldn’t hurt to sink himself deeper—a hole is a hole, right?

“Today was rather different, actually,” Marilyn said. Ah, the root of the day’s issues. “A group of school children came to see the lab. We showed them around and had a scavenger hunt. They had to take pictures of lots of lab materials: flasks, ammonium, Bunsen burners, burettes, you know.” Jeff did not know. But Marilyn was on a roll like butter and could not be stopped now. “Then, we had them dissect a pig.” Her voice turned hard, and Jeff realized where she was headed. “They were doing great, labelling all the different parts. They got all the easier parts—head, hooves, mouth, lungs—with no trouble, and they focused well on the harder parts like the kidneys and trachea.” Marilyn paused. “But why am I telling you this? You already know what the real problem was.”

Jeff did, and walked to the fridge. Opening it, he pulled out a jar and spoke:

“Home is where the heart is.” -AD

I was always homesick as a kid, and I was homesick as a first-semester college freshman. I cried a lot that first month; I remember tearfully explaining to a near-stranger that it wasn’t that I missed anything specific about home, it was that I missed everything. My parents, my sister, my dog, my room. My street, my friends, my crappy old desktop computer. Driving to high school. Familiarity. Everything that makes something feel like home; everything it means to know a place.

It’s almost four years later now, and it’s the end of March, and I’m two months away from graduating. When I went home that first time freshman year, I remember driving around my town loving that I knew every building and every road. (Metaphorically speaking. My sense of direction is very bad.) When I go home now, it’s—nice, but that’s about it; I’ll always have a deep-seated fondness for the town where I grew up, but mostly it’s my family that I miss now.

For the first three semesters of college, I deliberately said “I’m going back to my room” at the end of the day instead of “I’m going home.” In my fourth semester, the distinction stopped feeling quite as true. Over winter break this year, when people asked when I was heading back to Brown, I kept catching myself saying “I go home at the end of January.” This is where my life is now; I know every building and every road. (Again, a metaphor.)

I might never again spend more than a few days at a time in North Carolina. After May, I’ll never spend longer than a weekend at a time at Brown. I try not to spend too long thinking about either one of these things, because both make me sad in different but powerful ways. I’m not that homesick kid I was four years ago, but I’m still bracing myself a little for the missing to hit me again.

With time, though, anywhere can become familiar. I’m not sure yet where I’ll be next year, but wherever it is, I’m looking forward to learning every road. -AM