Perhaps home is this abstract notion of “where the heart is,” or perhaps it is as pragmatic as a split-level farm style. But however many ways home can be defined, to me, there is one simple thing that characterizes it: acceptance. Home is the place where nothing ever really changes, and, despite how we evolve over the years, we will always belong.
There is a Corner Bakery a short drive from my house in Chicago. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about it; it is just a chain restaurant in a strip mall of other chain restaurants. But there is a table in the center next to a fireplace with couches that I always gravitated toward. And this table saw every shade of me, from elementary school through college.
I started going there regularly in elementary school, when my whole family would go following the Saturday morning farmers market. This usually included an over-caffeinated Dana bouncing off the walls and bothering my brother. Flash forward a few years and my junior-high self would tag along with my dad when he went there to examine large packets of unintelligible financial records over breakfast. I’d sit there pretending my vocabulary flashcards were of equal importance. A year later, I was in eighth grade and would routinely order French toast and bacon and, three years later, the vegan version of myself would sit there shuttering at the sheer thought of such a meal.
When it was crunch time to boost my GPA for college applications, I became ensconced in my studies. My dad would take me there on the tension-riddled weekends preceding finals – both of us nearly weighed down by textbooks and folders. We’d spend upwards of five hours sitting at that table drilling types of fungi or the distinction between combinations and permutations or the Viet Cong versus the Viet Minh.
We sat at that same spot almost every year of my life. Sitting indoors studying true or false questions while the environment shifted from flowers blossoming to the sun blazing, from the leaves turning orange to heavy snowfall.
And, just like the seasons, I was evolving, too. From a tomboy third grader clad in museum T-shirts, to an alt-rock seventh grader with sparkly blue eyeshadow and feather hair extensions, to the full-blown song-and-dance sophomore, to who I am today: an amalgamation of all previous versions.
This is home to me. Two couches near a fireplace in a Corner Bakery that I can return to time and time again. A place that never changes in a town that never changes surrounded by people who are there, sitting across from me no matter how drastically I am changing. The place I grew up.
While the makers of the “you can never go home again” attitude may contend, I say you can. And a true home is steadfast and accepts you at every stage, in every shade.
Dana Munro is a sophomore majoring in musical theater.
Featured photo courtesy pixabay user congerdesign.