I've been thinking about home a lot since the morning of September 11th. Somewhere buried under layers of despair, I heard the call. Go home. Go home.
It was home that pulled me out of the East Village and then down the West Side Highway, trudging as fast as I could, until my hips hit the police barricades. I don't even know how I got there.
It was home that ultimately dragged me to ground zero and once there, as close to the smoking remnants as the armed guards would allow.
"I need to get in," I said to the guards, using my wheelbarrow filled with ice and Gator-ade as an entry pass. It worked.
As I purposely aimed my wheelbarrow to the tent nearest to the sculptures of steel jutting up, I felt myself being pulled apart by opposing sensations. Here was complete devastation, yet I felt oddly comfortable, peaceful. Was home nestled in the furthermost reaches of that fiery pit?
Flipping through the channels, I always stop when an image of ground zero comes on the screen. I wait until the news moves to another subject and only then change the channel.
It's always the same puzzling sensation: complete sadness and soothing calm.
It's like watching a video of the town you grew up in being totally destroyed, and then remembering in a rush all the wonderful things that used to be there. That remembrance washes over the burnt image until you see the two images at once: terrible and wonderful.
There are children playing in the dust. There are people laughing in the sky.
I'm looking for home.
No, I don't think it's the house in Rumson, N.J., that held me captive for the last eight years of my childhood, although the memory of my mother holding court at the kitchen table with her coupons and sugar-free cookies does pull at my heartstrings.
"Have another nosh, my shana madela. Make your mother happy."
Hmm that would be so delicious right about now, a little bite of childhood, but no. That's not the home I'm looking for.
I spent Thanksgiving with a friend who has been so close for so long that she has become my family, her daughter my daughter.
She has a warm, crowded, adoringly cluttered house filled with children's toys and the artwork of friends. Her table was filled with comfort foods made from recipes passed on to her by her grandmother and her mother.
The conversation flowed seamlessly from the moment I walked in until the moment I left: good people sharing over good food. It felt like a home. It is a home, a wonderful home, but not my home. Not the home that's been calling me.
How does that expression go? Oh, yes. Home is where the heart is. I suppose that answers a lot then, doesn't it? Home is where the heart is.
It's such a crisp night. The rain has stopped, and the children are playing.
I think I need to take a walk downtown.