Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


I tried to hang on to the past but I couldn’t keep my grasp

Filed under : Life in general
On September 23, 2008
At 10:15 pm
Comments : 16

Subtitled: how to articulate a lump in the throat.

What is home? Is home the place you live or the place you’re from? Maybe it’s wherever you lay your hat, that was a swell song. I’m a New Yorker but I’m not from New York. I’m from the New York area, that’s true. And I grew up coming to New York. I saw shows at Madison Square Garden and clubs that no longer exist like Limelight and the Ritz. I saw baseball games at Yankee Stadium. I hung out, shopped, and got my hair cut in the Village. But I was a bridge and tunnel person, no question. Mostly bridge. A Facebook friend of mine sometimes asks, “will you be home for blah blah holiday?” And I always feel resentful. I live here. This is my home.


My new kitchen is mostly from Brooklyn. Entirely, really. The contractor, the cabinets, the tiles, the floor, the granite… all from Brooklyn (the granite started in Spain, but that’s a technicality). So I’ve been going there a lot. My father is from Brooklyn and if I say something like, “I went to Utica & Kings Highway,” he’ll tell me what subway line I took. And he’ll call the lines things like, the “Brighton Beach line” instead of the letter. I can’t really pull that off; this isn’t my hometown.

The problem is, when the place you live changes, it changes incrementally so that it doesn’t seem different unless you really think about it. You know the neighborhood has changed but it doesn’t look strange because it happened so gradually. Sometimes you forget what store was there before the Commerce Bank. With your hometown, though, you go back and it’s all different. And worse, the people there treat it all as normal. They even get excited. Look! The Sears is a Super Wal-Mart! They’ve moved on while you’ve just moved away. It’s not really your town anymore, is it? You’ve conceded it to those who live there now. If you’re not from the kind of place that people are longing to get out of as soon as they can, this can be difficult. Especially if you go back now and then and see glimpses of what it used to be. Or if you find yourself knowing that the law office used to be the pharmacy. Or peering into the library and knowing exactly what section of books it is. Sometimes, as you walk through the mall built in the time of legwarmers before it officially opens, you can press your nose against the glass of the Men’s Store and in the dim light see the glow of the Exit sign above the door to the back room, and it’s the same back room of what was once the record store where you wiled away customer-free afternoons arguing whether Depeche Mode’s Music For the Masses or Metallica’s Black Album would be next on the sound system (guess which side I took).

And if there comes a moment when there is no longer any home there, then you begin to wonder, can the phrase hometown exist without the home part? If the whole thing has changed and you’ve spent the greater part of your life living elsewhere, and there is no home… is it home? And if you can’t feel that way about your current town because as much as you love it and want to hug it every day, it stills feels like you are a newcomer, then where is home?

Perhaps if you grew up in a house and then spent many years moving from apartment to apartment, it is tough to convince your psyche even six years after you bought a bit of New York, that the place you plunked down all that money for, though it is the same sort of apartment as all the transient places, is home. Maybe a new kitchen will do it. Maybe having no home in your hometown will do it. Maybe the boxes of your childhood bedroom now in your storage space will do it.

Yesterday, the day I lost my home, the house in which I was born, physically and spiritually, I nearly removed the entry in the “Hometown” slot of my Facebook page. But I decided not to. I just have to realize that hometown is a state of mind. You know, like Yogi Berra said on one of those tearjerker ESPN commercials about Yankee Stadium: “I won’t miss this place…. because it’s inside me.”

Of course, in our cathedral of baseball, we only used wiffle balls. But you get me.

Photo of the house in which I was born and raised via Google maps

Title from
Matthew Sweet – Nothing Lasts


16 Comments for this post

~dogandmusiclover~ says

I don’t really know what to say. So I’ll just say this: I’m sorry and I’m thinking of you.

kb says

what happened to your home? I’m sorry if that’s an insensitive question right now …

I’m guessing one of the following:

-your dad sold it
-it got torn down (looks too nice for that!)
-it burned down yesterday
-one of your parents died
-you’re actually talking about your apt, which burned down yesterday
-you’re actually talking about Yankee Stadium

I’m sorry …. I’m out of the loop apparently so my comment risks me making a complete ass of myself ….

Ima Wurdibitsch says

Big hugs. I was a military brat so never felt like I had a hometown. We did, however, build a lake house while I was a teenager. The whole family pitched in and, except for the septic tank, we built the entire house. I was surprised at how emotional I got when my parents decided to sell it several years ago. That was our home – not the Army’s, not some temporary housing.

Big hugs again.

sarpon says

I can’t believe you wrote this. I’m reduced to a puddle of goo, and all I did was read it.

Yogi’s right, of course. He always is.

So is this:
Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.

Becca says

Dog, that is a fine thing to say. Thank you.

kb, it is #4 (that was three years ago) and then subsequently #1. In a way, #4 destroyed home before #1 ever did. And you haven’t been out of the loop, I just try not to discuss depressing things on this blog. Because I want it to be a cheery space so those who are going through depressing things can have a moment of fun. But it’s been hard to do lately.

Ima, thank you. It really is amazing how the physical place in which your memories are located can mean so very much.

Sarp, thanks. Tissue? And now I realize; Bellevue is home.

Melanie says

Becca, this was beautifully written; thank you for sharing it. I’m sorry this has happened. As to your response in the comments, I’m a firm believer that a blog is where you write what you need to write for you, not for others, and if other people get something from it, that’s a bonus.

Jane says

I’m very sorry. I’ve been experiencing a lot of confusion about “home” for several years myself, so I understand (a little). Best wishes.

(I also thought this was maybe about Yankee Stadium until I got through the first couple of sentences.)

Becca says

Mel, thank you for that. I know, you’re right. But I have FOBAD* disease and it’s tough for me to do that.

*fear of being a downer

Jane, you know, it actually helped that the Stadium thing happened this week. I felt like the city, ESPN, and the media all felt my pain. And thank you, it’s heartfeltedly appreciated.

I hope that’s a word. Spellcheck says no; fuck ‘em.

Alfa says

That was beautiful and sad, Bec. Like so many of the best things in life.

Celia says

I have not had a hometown since…
Well, I am not sure the last time I had one. I tell people, “Well, I went to high school in [location],” but I was not born there and my parents haven’t lived there since 1985. I lived there from age 12 to age 18, and my parents sold the house when I was 23.

It’s one of the things I want to give my kids–something to put in the space that says “hometown.”

kb says

It really really comforts me to know that someone who has moved through many small apartments numerous times still has a couple of boxes of childhood possessions — obviously needed for nothing but sentimental value — that they don’t feel the need to “simplify” out of their lives.

Yay for valuing where you came from!

And this post was incredibly written, btw. I think you articulated the lump in one’s throat perfectly.

Becca says

Thank you, Alfa. And take care of my hometown; I know you, at least, can’t be glad to see a Super Wal-Mart.

Celia, I knew even as a kid I was lucky. I had friends who moved in, friends who moved out. My mother knew where you were coming from. Her family moved from Springfield, Mass to Buffalo when she was late in high school and she never considered Buffalo her home. Besides that feeling, she said she could never move because it would mean she’d have to clean out the attic. After three weeks of doing just that, I now see what she meant.

kb, I didn’t! I’ve just carried them back now when the house sold. It’s kind of amazing what you find. I’ll be blogging a bit about that in future. Some things are really wacky!

But after all that cleaning, I’m leaving a note atop all those boxes that says, “I couldn’t bear to throw this out… but you can!”

And thanks, I had a different post in my head every day this month… this just happened to be what was in there when I finally had a moment to write it down.

Irishcardinal says

Jayzus,Becca, are you trying to make me cry? That was a very touching piece. I envy you having had a “home” for so long. I don’t feel any attachment to the house I grew up in. It’s been gone for a long time. My parents moved to a different house when I was in collge. People still ask me if I’m going “home” for the holidays. But there is no “home” to go to. No house, no parents. “Home” is just where I live now. You were lucky to have a home so long–it must be very hard to give it up.

Merrick says

I’m very sorry Becca. I actually went through this a little over two years ago.

Hang in there :-)

Becca says

Sorry, Irish! :)

It’s true, I am lucky. I said it in a comment above but that happened to my Mom too. It’s tough to have roots set up and then have them pulled out.

Oh, and she went back to Springfield way later and her house was a parking lot. Le sigh.

Thank you, Merrick. I’m sorry you had to go through it as well. It’s tougher than I even imagined.

Maureen says

That was beautifully written, Becca. I wish I had something profound and comforting to say, but I never do. Just know that I’m thinking of you, and don’t forget where I am if you need anything.