Defining Home

Carol Brown - Ecuador


November 1, 2013

Originally written en route to Quito, Ecuador somewhere over some ocean on August 29th, 2013. Edited during home stay in Quito.

There’s nothing better to make you reconsider the definition of home than to leave everything you’ve ever known behind. From a vantage point sandwiched between Isabel from the Bay area and Emily from England (or Cleveland, depending on how you ask) racing away from the continental United States, home quickly becomes a relative term. For Isabel, the gridded landscape of California visible most beautifully from the sky symbolized home. Home is mountains and waves of fog. Most importantly, home is her twin brother and twin younger sisters. From ten thousand feet, I’m coming to believe home is a metric of familiarity with quirks.

My home has fishing lines hung on the walls of the living room to hang photographs and more broken computers than bedrooms. Home has more books than it knows what to do with. My bedroom at home, in this case meaning the apartment I’ve lived in since I was 18 months old, has a pink stain at head height on one wall. It’s a bubble gum stain from a strange half remember incident involving a pair of my childhood friends. The stain sits just north and west of the hole punched in the plaster by my door handle thirteen years ago. The hole resulted from a particularly violent 5-year-old’s temper tantrum involving the loud angry throwing of my door at the wall. I don’t remember what exactly I was so upset about. Honestly, I doubt I really knew at the time either, but the hole (and the resulting plaster

patch bought very pointedly with my meager allowance) stand in silent testament to the reality that it did happen. The hole is paralleled vertically by another shabbier plaster patch from an incident in which youthful me put my foot through my bedroom wall.

This is the view from home today. A street in Quito, thousands of miles from my home in New Jersey.

This is the view from home today. A street in Quito, thousands of miles from my home in New Jersey.

These details are hardly badges of honor. Frankly, they represent some of the least flattering incidents in my history. A childhood tendency towards destruction should hardly be celebrated. It should be shamefully spoken of with the appropriate and necessary reverence. It should not, however, be forgotten.

Throughout fall training, our mentors reiterated the value of oddity, anomaly. They cautioned against letting the ugly fall to the wayside while keeping only the beautiful. As I leave my childhood home behind for good, it is tempting to take only the Christmas tree and the framed photographs, but this would be unethically dishonest. The quirks of my “home” are carved into who I’ve become. They are part of who I am. I carry them with me regardless of where I physically live, regardless of my permanent home address. Home is where it’s safe to embrace your quirks. In Quito, I am no less home than I was a 10 days ago when I left Newark. There just won’t be as obvious a bubble gum stain.

Carol Brown