Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Since returning to America a little over a year ago, I have been spending quite a bit of time thinking about home.

Yesterday, the anniversary of my mother's death, had a spark of realization, something I had never seen before.

With her final heartbeat, my sense of home was changed forever. For the first 19 years of my life, I never questioned what or where home was. Once she was gone, home was no longer home. The house in the Mon Valley was still there, but the home was gone.

I left the Mon Valley as if someone was chasing me and headed out into the world.

The place where I receive my mail has changed with my changing fortunes over the years, from college dorms to city row houses to a brief stint in a dark squat in a very, very scary neighborhood to a posh fifth floor apartment in Washington, DC to a little cottage by the sea in the west of Ireland. All of these places felt like home for a while.

I lived with roommates, housemates, a boyfriend. Mostly, I have lived on my own. Presently, I live on my own in an orange shag-carpeted apartment back in the Mon Valley with my border collie, Eloise.

I know that this isn't the last stop on my journey. Honestly, I have been thinking lately that if Eloise and I could arrange to spend six months or so living in a second floor flat with an iron balcony overlooking a lesser canal in the Cannareggio in Venice, I would be the happiest person in the world.

But still it might not feel like home.

When I left the Mon Valley many years ago, the Steelers were winning. This place is joyous when they are winning and it permeates everything.

Yesterday, as I drove to work, the Steelers Polka played on the radio. I recalled an image of my mother--hair in curlers, sitting at the kitchen table, cigarette in one hand, cup of coffee in the other bopping along to the song on KDKA radio. My feet moved in time with the music. I know the words. I didn't know I knew the words. I smiled in spite of myself.

I don't know where home is yet, but somewhere in the deep recesses of my soul I have the urge to polka.

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