We had just crossed the border from Spain into France last month when Pat sighed and said, “It’s nice to be back home.” It was, to my mind, an odd thing for him to say. I think of Pat as firmly rooted in his more traditional homes. Charlottesville, Virginia perhaps—or in any of a number of other places where he’s lived: Evergreen, Colorado; Raleigh, North Carolina; Bay City, Michigan.

Where home is concerned, I’ve always been more the love-the-one-you’re-with person. So while I was surprised, I was also happy. Happy that having our feet firmly rooted in two continents might last for a while. Thrilled with the notion that I don’t have to pick one.

After a four-year hiatus, we had signed a lease starting December first on our original apartment in Paris. Our first chance to see it again was in early January during a brief stop on the front end of an eight-week trip spent—predominantly—in Spain.

I had expected to walk in and immediately fall back in love, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I found a place denuded of all prior memories. The furniture was different, the hardwood floors had been refinished, the curtains were gone—along with almost everything else (little fromage plates, where are you?). It reeked of regret and bad decisions. As we boarded a flight to Seville, I tucked those thoughts away.

Reward for safe return. No questions asked.

Seven weeks later, we ended our trip with a few more days in Paris. We got busy—trying our best to conjure a home out of something that was little more than four walls and a futon. Pat repainted the trim while I hemmed and hung curtains. We set out photos and books that I had toted from Virginia. We caught up with fruit venders and crepe makers a few paces from our front door. And I remembered everything I love about this place.

The day we left, I took a quick picture as we headed out.

Paris was starting to feel like home again.

I’ve contemplated this concept of home before. What does it mean? What should it mean? Why does it matter?

In that spirit, I’m reading a memoir by the Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen called At Home in the World. He has lived and worked in India, Ireland, the United States, and the United Kingdom (plus a smattering of places in between). Upon returning to Trinity College in Dublin as a professor, he was asked by a BBC interviewer, Where do you consider to be your home?

I love his answer.

‘I feel very much at home here right now,’ I said, explaining that I had had a long association with Trinity, having been an undergraduate, a research student, a research fellow and then a teacher there. But I added that I also felt much at home in our old house near Harvard Square at the other Cambridge, and I very much feel at home in India, particularly at our little house in Santiniketan where I grew up and to which I love going back regularly. ‘So,’ said the man from the BBC, ‘you have no concept of home!’ ‘On the contrary,’ I said, ‘I have more than one welcoming home, but I don’t share your idea that a home has to be exclusive.’

Amartya Sen from At Home in the World

I’m writing this post from our home in Charlottesville. This weekend, we’ll head to Philly to visit our granddaughter, Charlie. In a few weeks, we’ll return to Paris for a brief visit, then again in May, and finally in September for a longer stay. At the end of September, we’ll head to Bratislava.

I have lived for a time in each of these places and still feel a visceral connection to them. In other words, each now feels like home. As I write this, I’m fairly jet-lagged, and yet, I’m excited beyond measure. I can’t wait for the year ahead.

After all, Pat was right. It really is nice to be home.


Categories: "Home", Life in Paris

Tags: , , , ,

4 replies

  1. Hear, hear! Greetings from Bratislava JC…

  2. Wow I just this morning have found your lovely blog…. I am excited to read your previous posts/articles and just wanted to tell you how beautiful it all is! I stumbled upon it while searching for articles on Monet and Giverny ❤

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