T.I.L.T. #146 — There’s No Place Like Home

Hello again, faithful T.I.L.T. fans, your intrepid author is back after a much-needed vacation and comfortably settling into his new home. The last weeks, months — year? — have been a whirlwind of activity of change, change, and more change.

On the home front, it’s been a fun and fabulous first year of marriage, filled with domestic bliss and challenges as my professional world ended up in us moving our home front. See, we just moved onto the campus of the university I work at after a year in which I had six new bosses. To say that I really had no idea what the next day would bring would be putting mildly. Not that anyone ever does, but for way too long there was so much uncertainty about everything professionally that the home front and where it should be came a lot into question.

I thought a lot about saying enough is enough and moving back to America. Something I think about more and more about in general since I have been an ex-pat now for over fifteen years. Will I ever live in the States again? The longer I live in Germany, in Europe, the more I miss the States. I miss the American language. I miss being able to buy anything I want twenty-four hours a day. I miss the food and silly things like Monday Night Football. And of course old friends and family.

Yet now I’ve been gone so long, that when I go back to the States on vacation, I feel like a stranger in a strange land staring in fascination and disdain. The super-sized portions. The commercialized everything. The apathy about gun violence and antipathy about the socialized healthcare. At the same time, I have never felt quite at home in Germany, like I’ve been on some odyssey vacation that never seems to end. Just when will Homer go home and where is that anyway? Will I ever truly feel at home anywhere again?

People say home is where the heart is, and that’s true to be sure on a personal relationship level. I am very at home with my lovely little wifey. But home nationality-wise is another thing. Wifey is in the same boat since she’s from Romania. Both of us are ex-pats. Both of miss similar things but then miss nothing at all since Germany is a beautiful, peaceful, and stimulating place to live and work. And our new home is spacious with all the amenities and even a great view of green trees and wide skies. But it too is new compared to our old apartment, so it’s still not quite like home yet. But I do think wifey put it best after our vacation when we came back to our new place after a slew of hotels and she said that home is where your bed is.

All of these thoughts were mixing and mulling and musing in my brain the last weeks as we went through upheaval and disorientation, moving, vacationing, living on the go go go, the scenery ever-changing, wondering when we would land on our feet and feel at home again. And then we got a special guest late the other evening who, for lack of a better phrase, brought it all home for me. A lost homing pigeon landed on our balcony. At first I thought it was just a very tired and not shy local pigeon. But when  I tried to shoo him away he just came closer, showing none of the normal reactions I’d expect from a wild animal. Then I noticed he had metal identification bands around his feet and was clearly domesticated. At that point, based on trusty advice from the internet, we gave him water and unprocessed grains and seeds and put him in a box for the night to let him rest and see if he would make his way on his own the next day. We cooed over him and nicknamed him Churchill.

But the next morning he was still there, seemingly quite at home, so I set about trying to figure out where his real home was that he seemed to have lost. Thankfully one of the numbers on his legs proved to be a phone number and he was from a city on the other side of the river about twenty kilometers away. This may seem like a long way for him to be off, but apparently he was on his way back from Basel which is in Switzerland and just about 800 kilometers as the crow flies. I have no idea how many kilometers it is as the pigeon flies since Churchill did not land at home, but considering he was less than a year old and on his first trip flying on his own across a continent, and apparently does not have a modern GPS, I’d say he did pretty darn well. If you’d let me go at that age in Switzerland and told me to find home, well, I would either be dead by now or would still be in Switzerland yodeling for my mother — Mutti-where-are-you—hoo-hoo?!

Anyway, Churchill made it home after all his travels and so did we even though none of us were really were sure where that was right then. We do know now — home is where your bed and heart and head is. Yes, there’s no place like home.

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