I grew up in what I truly believe to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, the North Fork of Long Island. Some people confuse Long Island with Manhattan, but I can assure you, a quiet world of farms, beaches, and vineyards exists at the end of that long strip of land floating in the Atlantic.
I had no idea what I had as a kid. It’s easy to take bike riding during a brilliant sunset next to a sprawling farm field for granted when it’s all you know. The inlets and creeks are such a part of daily life that you could miss them if you were in a hurry, but there is a deep subconscious awareness of the water. The coastal life becomes firmly rooted in the people who live on the North Fork.
“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.” ~ John Ed Pearce
As a teen, like most, a restlessness invaded my soul. I wanted to leave. I wanted to work in the music industry, and I was determined that Nashville, music city, would be my destination. Ten years after moving to Nashville, my dream has been realized, but I have never missed Long Island more.
Some people grow up moving from place to place and never really land in a space that feels like home. Others grow up in the same place, leave, and never look back, establishing thriving lives for themselves somewhere else. For me, I left and am accomplishing what I set out to do, but never had a clue how ingrained Long Island was into my psyche.
The culture has a flavor all its own. The proximity to Manhattan, and yet the separateness, make the North Fork an ideal place to live. All the recent celebrity sightings and TV/film tapings highlight how desirable the location is.
The sheer natural beauty of the place is what captures me. The second the plane starts descending and I catch a view of the coast, the barrier beaches with white-capped waves rolling into shore, it hits me, that sense of place. I have arrived where I belong.
I really love my life in Franklin, Tennessee, a historic town just outside of Nashville. There is a pretty main street that looks like a movie set lined with small businesses, a recently renovated theatre, and a history soaked with the blood of those who fought in the Civil War. I own a little bungalow-style house within walking distance of town, I am in a relationship with a great guy, and I truly love my job. Things have worked out for me here, and I often have moments where I am overwhelmed with gratefulness for how blessed my life is. This is my home, but the longing to return to my real home has never left my heart. I don’t really understand this.
If I’m honest with myself, the reality of a move back to Long Island would mean an exponential increase in my living expenses, a real lack of career options in the small community of the North Fork, and a simpler way of living that would require incredible patience and resourcefulness in which to be content.
So why is it that I still read the local paper online everyday? Why do I scroll through the real estate listings hoping something affordable will magically appear? Why do I get anxious unless another flight there is booked months in advance? Why can’t my heart just be content with where I am?
I can’t answer any of these questions, all I know is that it’s still home to me. There is a sense of belonging in that place that I don’t feel anywhere else. My dad’s garden, my mom’s favorite spot to walk, the trees I climbed as a girl. The roads are so familiar I could drive some of them blindfolded if I had to. Bailie Beach is still my favorite place to walk because it has some of the best sea glass around. New Suffolk has some of the prettiest inlet views on the East End. Greenport has the best docks, Fourth of July fireworks, and the Maritime Festival in the fall. I could go on and on. Yes, sometimes we can romanticize what our childhood homes were like, but I go back four or five times a year to see my family and am still enchanted.
I think home is something unique to everyone. For some it’s a person or a place. For others, it’s a feeling. I think all of us have had a time when we can relate to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz clicking her heels and wishing with all her might to return to where she came from. “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”
What Is Home?
We asked some WYSK readers to tell us what “home” means to them. We wanted to hear their perspectives, since all have different backgrounds and experiences with living other places.
“Home is what you make of it. Home can be a sanctuary. I view our home as a team art project. It’s fun to piece together just as long as we remember that it’s not about making things perfect but appreciating the character.” – Marcy
“Home is where the best of the tangible and the intangible collide in warmth and welcome, where the pretense drops away, and we become children wrapped in blankets of familiarity and peace.” – Amy
“Home, more so than a town, or a street, or a house, is the water. Whether barren, windy, frozen sand, and frigid waters, or sun-kissed, refreshing waves, overflowing with bathers, water is home. The casual culture that affixes itself to the commanding power of water also resonates with me, but it is the water itself that calls me. Apart from water, my friends are my home.” – Alicia
“For me, I think home is a place that feels so familiar you can move about your life without thinking about the details. For example, when I’m in Mattituck, I don’t have to think about how to get to a friend’s house or to the store or to the gas station, I just jump in the car and go. In NYC, I get on the subway without a second thought. In Philly, until now, I had to think about where the store was and look at a map.” – Renee
“Home, for me, will always be my family. I never think of home as a physical location, because obviously that can change with time. For whatever reason I tend to feel slightly out of place all the time, and never entirely feel like I fit into my surroundings or social situations. The only time I do feel as if I entirely belong is when I am with my immediate family. There is a feeling of being wholly loved and wholly accepted when I’m with my parents and my sister that no place on earth and no other person on earth can create for me. We have our own way of communicating with each other, and when I’m with my family even the rhythms of conversation are comforting to me. For that reason, I don’t think it would matter if we were in the middle of the Sahara or in the house we’ve lived in since I was 7 years old – wherever we are together, that’s where home is for me. – Ashley
The John Ed Pearce quote above says we “grow old wanting to get back to” our homes, but part of me hopes I don’t simply grow old wanting to. Maybe someday I actually will.