I think many of us live where we live simply because that's where we are. It isn't our dream location, it doesn't make us completely happy, maybe it is not a great fit for us due to climate. But, maybe it close to family, or our job, or friends. Maybe it simply has more pluses than negatives. Sometimes simple inertia keeps us in place.
Moving is not easy and for the newly retired sometimes a big mistake. There are too many other upheavals in life after retiring to add a quick move. So, we stay where we are.
But, the question I am asking today is about that place that feels like home to you when you have visited or lived there before. The moment you step off the plane, or drive down the main street you body relaxes and you feel comfortable. There are certain sights or smells that calm you. There are landmark buildings or mountains, or ocean waves that say "home" to you.
I have two such places, both very different from each other. One will probably surprise my family, especially my wife when she reads this. But, no matter. These two places have some special draw and hold on me and my memories.
The first is not very unique: the island of Maui. I have been to this slice of paradise nine or ten times over the past 30 years. Each time I leave the plane and step into the airport terminal I have a powerful feeling of being home. There are certain smells of the blooming flowers, the feel of trade winds on my face, even the humidity of the air that is so different from the desert where I live.
The people smile, and laugh and walk more slowly than I. They spend as much time as possible enjoying family and life with hours-long picnics, gatherings by the ocean, barbecues and sing-alongs. Their clothes are casual and unpretentious. Their manners are usually polite. They seem to be enjoying life, not simply rushing through this moment to get to the next.
The second place is......Morgantown, West Virginia. Very, very different from Maui, this small city near the Pennsylvania border has a pull on me for four reasons: I met and married Betty there in 1976, I got my first job as a radio station program director there in 1973, my favorite Uncle lived there most of his adult life, and my grandparents were in Pittsburgh, less than two hours away.
When I lived in Morgantown it was half the size it is today. The student body of West Virginia University was nearly 50% of the total population. Shopping and entertainment remained centered on High Street, the main street through downtown. The radio station that employed me was there, too, right in the thick of things.
Being the program director and afternoon DJ in a town with only three radio stations made me a minor celebrity. My Uncle was a major figure at the University. When the two of us would meet for lunch at "his table" at the most popular lunch spot in town, a rather continuous stream of folks would stop by our table to chat. I felt special and strongly connected to Morgantown's life.
The town was fascinating because of the University. Students from all over the world were in town, affecting the clothing styles and even restaurant choices. WVU football was the big deal that it still is today. But, back then the open-air football stadium was right downtown instead of several miles away inside a dome. The roar of the crowd on fall Saturday afternoons could be heard everywhere.
Betty and I bought our very first house in Morgantown and began to learn what it means to be married. Her parents lived in town, so weekend meals together were common. Less than thirty minutes out of town, Cheat Lake and other outdoor recreation areas beckoned when the weather was nice. If I hadn't been offered a tremendous career opportunity that required a move to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I think I could have made my life, very happily, in Morgantown.
Could I live in either of these places full time today? No. Maui is too far from family and too expensive. Morgantown has winter weather that I could no longer tolerate. But, none of that changes that feeling of "home" when I think of, or visit, either one.
Home, then, is as much a state of mind as a place. Do you have a "home" that calls you from a distance or your past?