October is the month for homecoming football games, pumpkin everything and flying leaves. It’s always been a time of reflection for me, before winter descends. After losing my job this fall I felt a little more retrospective than usual and since I had time on my hands I made an extended homecoming to Minnesota.
But what does a homecoming to Minnesota mean when I’ve lived in Seattle longer than I have in there? What does home mean to a wanderlust like me who feels homesick for places like Spain and Turkey, where I’ve never even lived?
On this homecoming I did everything in order to find out. I drove to the North Shore of Lake Superior with my sister to get as close to m iconic Northwoods as possible. I played racing games with my step-sisters’s children at my dad’s and thought how crazy it is to grow up. I visited three generations of family members at the cemetery in Center City and wondered for the first time–do I want to be buried or spread to the wind when I go? I walked from my grade school to my childhood home thought how small places are compared to our memories of them. And I took my mom to the emergency room for a longish visit, only to find out that her heart was fine but the bad guys were gall stones. The words grateful and relieved aren’t big enough for what I felt.
I left Minnesota as a young gay man trying to come out of the closet. The Minnesota I knew in the late 80s was a homophobic place filled with high school memories. I needed a new place to become me. I drove west to Seattle and quickly fell in love with it. Over the years I returned to Minnesota to visit family, but always with the eyes of a refugee.
This homecoming was about being welcomed into the bosom of family love. It was about falling in love with a place all over again. It was about diving deep into the lake of memory and coming out with a fresh eye for everything I saw.
To a vagabond like myself, home is a state of mind as much, if not more, than it is a geographic location. It’s an elusive place in my memory.
Although I was slightly tearful leaving, once I saw Mt. Rainier on our descent into Seattle I was reassured to be home again.