I sometimes envy people who have a family home to return to, a place where they grew up, where their parents or even their grandparents lived.
The closest thing I have is the farmhouse where my mother grew up. My grandparents lived there until they died, and my mother’s older brother, Andy, and his wife, Bea, live there still, despite everyone’s insistence that, at 90, Andy might want to think about moving to a place with fewer stairs, a little bit closer to town.
“I’ve lived here almost all my life,” Andy said. “Why should I move now?”
People could say, “Well, because you’re 90 years old, and you broke your leg a year ago and it’s a big old house for a couple of people who are no longer young.”
But most people don’t bother to say that because it wouldn’t change Andy’s mind. He likes sitting in the kitchen. He can watch the birds on the feeders that Bea keeps stocked with seeds and look out on the fields that used to be filled with peas or soybeans but are now horse pasture. He can see where the barn used to be before he tore it down rather than have it collapse on itself. He’s got things the way he likes them, and he doesn’t see the point in upsetting the applecart — that’s my guess.
Mother moved to the farmhouse when she was young. She had 10 siblings, and that was a lot of kids to keep track of. This is why I cannot really blame my grandparents for failing to update the youngest three on the exact date of the move.
The school bus dropped them off at their house, but everyone was gone. They didn’t know what to do. My mother was the oldest of the three and they sat together on a roll of linoleum until someone came and brought them to the new farmhouse. That was a very long time ago, and my uncle Andy has been there ever since.
The home I grew up in was sold long ago. When I married Peter, I sold my house, and we lived together in his home. We sold Peter’s place when we moved to the city. Then we started coming to Mexico. Last night, I realized my idea of home was, once again, changing.
This little apartment that we do not own — where we have no more than two matching plates and bowls — feels more and more like coming home.
Jorge, who owns the hotel we stay in, was raised here with even more siblings than my mother had. There were 13 of them, and they all grew up in the home that occupied this space that Jorge has converted into eight apartments. Jorge lives here still, in a small apartment in the front, always available if a guest arrives late or loses a key or has any of the problems hotel guests are prone to.
There is a lot about this hotel that does not seem like a proper business establishment. There is a lot of unnecessary kindness and art and laughter. I think it is because this is — and will remain — Jorge’s home. Sitting at the front desk in the afternoons, Jorge is always delighted to see everyone, delighted to share his home.
I don’t think it has to make sense any more than Andy’s choice to remain in the farmhouse kitchen. Home is where you find it. Home is what you know. Home is where you feel at ease. That makes sense to me.