Boston is where I am from and Minneapolis is where I live. Boston is my true home and always will be, but in order to find happiness in a new place you need to carve out a space and make it yours. You need to find people who can appreciate where you come from, even if they do not quite understand it.
At some point, in order for the relationship to continue to build, it has to go beyond appreciation. You need to unravel the layers- meet those who are important to them, visit the places that mean something to them, listen to the stories that have made them, and listen again when they want to retell you the same story, and again.
All people want to be understood and can you really without knowing where they are from?
It is easy enough to ask somebody where they are from- Boston, Paris, Timbuktu. But unless you have been there, unless you have traveled to their city, their home, you are missing a big piece. Looking at pictures of Chiacgo will never tell you what they have been through or how far they have come.
I am not saying that my life is more layered or complicated than anybody else, it's not. But I do think that Boston helped some people in Minnesota understand me a little better. And I think I needed that because nothing will give you more pride for your home than not living there anymore. It bothers me when people tell me they cannot hear my accent and I always have to interject and tell them how strong it used to be. I feel most alone in Minnesota when I am somewhere public and Sweet Caroline comes on because I know nobody else there really gets it.
It works the opposite way too. I know most people from home have no idea what Minneapolis is like and that bothers me more than I wish it would. The look of surprise when I insist that Minneapolis is a city is shocking. The waiter at Legal Seafood this last time said. "Like with tall buildings and everything?" Yes sir!
I live in a city and despite my frustrations over bitter winters and a lack of ocean, it is a pretty city. More than a few times, people in Boston have asked Nick what it was like to grow up in the country. He has done his best to tell them it was a suburb, not a farm but that doesn't always work.
Nick's sweet, lovely grandmother met my parents for the first time in July and when I saw her afterwards she kept telling me how surprised she was that she really liked them. She kept referring to them as Eastern and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were regular people.
With all of this I wonder how Nick and I make it work. Seven years ago we sat next to eachother on a bus on the other side of the world and in our first conversation, talked about home. Early on, we struggled to understand one another. On one occassion I looked out the window and pointed,
"Theah ah a lot of pahks heah huh?" (*Translation*: There are a lot of parks here huh?"
"I'm soorry. PahtOles???" (*Translation*: I'm sorry. Potholes????)
"Oh, um, paRks?"
"OOH Parks! Yes lahts of parks."
Maybe being in Australia, on neutral ground, made it easier until we figured things out.
I will never forget how terrified I was when I first came to visit. I got in a few days before New Years Eve in 2004. Nick picked me up at the airport. He was wearing a winter jacket, his hair was different, and he had new glasses. My stomach turned as I realized how far away we were from the beaches where we fell in love. I was in Minnesota. It was cold and flat and nobody understood me.
Now I live here. We are married. And although I still struggle with belonging, I know a big piece to understanding is understanding home.