Wednesday, January 18, 2006

There’s No Place Like Home. Until You Don’t Live There Anymore.

"Home" is a foreign land these days. I haven't really lived in my parents' house in a decade. Since I've been gone, some of the rooms have changed functions, naturally. There's no longer a room that's referred to as "my room," but rather, "the back bedroom" or "the green room." Even more confusing than the updated décor and new nomenclature is the kitchen and bathroom renovation a couple of years ago, wherein entirely new cabinets and countertops were installed. I can't find a damn thing in either room. "Glasses?" "To the right of the sink." "You mean to the left?" (where they used to be) "No, to the right."

The bathroom used to have four drawers and two cabinets. It now has a dozen drawers, in addition to the two cabinets. My first time in the newly renovated house, I spent ten minutes looking for a cotton ball. I took a guess and pulled open a few of the drawers nearest the sink at which I stood. No luck. I looked in the cabinet under this sink. Nope. I looked in the other cabinet. Not there either. Muttering to myself, What is wrong with you people??? Don't you use cotton balls?!?!?! I continued my hunt around the bathroom, eventually finding them on a shelf in the linen closet. Of course. (These days I just bring my own. It's safer that way.)

Then, I needed the hair dryer. We still own one of those, right? I didn't recall having seen it on my quest for a cotton ball, but I tried the stand-at-the-sink-and-make-a-logical-guess method anyway. Four incorrect guesses later, I decided to be more methodical. I started at the left side of the sink and opened every single compartment. Three drawers of "Dad stuff." Pass. The cabinet with cleaning products and the garbage can. Three mostly empty drawers containing rarely-used items, like a hand-held mirror with fake peach flowers hot-glued on the back. (I have no idea where this came from, but I believe it showed up around 1991. Yes, we still have it – it's a perfectly functional mirror!) Three drawers of "Mom stuff," makeup, hairspray, etc. Ok, hairspray, that’s a good sign. Another cabinet, which was formerly the home of the hairdryer. But clearly not anymore. Another drawer of brushes, combs, etc. Finally – in drawer #11 – I found the hairdryer. By this point my hair had already dried into whatever godawful concoction the towel had created, but at least I knew where to look the next time.

Outside the house, things are equally strange. I have friends, people I went to school with, who live there. By choice. This is not a reality I had ever contemplated. Sure 57% of Americans live within an hour of their childhood home, but I didn't expect it to be people I knew! These are people who went away for college! People who have graduate degrees! People who could get a job anywhere! And they want to live in Janesville?

Janesville is my adopted home; it is not my hometown. To be fair, I liked and appreciated Janesville for what it was, but never loved it as much as my born-and-raised counterparts. I was a transplant there at age 10 and J-burg didn't live up to my cosmopolitan Milwaukee suburb standards. I was old enough and aware enough to know what I was missing. Plus, my extended family has always been scattered across the country. It didn't occur to me that people might grow up and live in the same city as their parents and siblings. At the very least, not in a small city like Janesville. Dad's entire family lives in the Milwaukee metro area, and half of Mom's family is concentrated in Chattanooga. But these are cities of hundreds of thousands! Not 60,000, like Janesville. (Talk about a small town – the families of four people I was friends with in high school with are now related by marriage.)

Finally, while I could see the value in geographic proximity to one's family, I could not envision a job that would keep me in town. Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago – they all made the list. But I knew I was a city girl and I really wanted to do something legal and/or political, so wherever I ended up would have to have a decent concentration of government entities, law firms, and perhaps consulting firms. (Is it any wonder I fell in love with DC?) Unless you want to do real estate deals and prepare wills (like one attorney I worked for) or medical malpractice (like the three others), there's not a lot of exciting legal work going on in Janesville. Even in middle school, I knew my work would be a defining part of me, and there was no work, and hence no life, there for me.

But the people I know from middle school and high school... They are now Janesville's electricians, pharmacists, teachers, bankers, radiology technicians, engineers, chiropractors, small business owners, doctors, paralegals, homeowners. And, most frightening of all, parents. (Baby: This season's hottest accessory for 28-year olds!) They could have found a job anywhere, but they chose Janesville. And this is wonderful. Because for as much as I need to be somewhere else, doing a job that doesn't exist at home, Janesville needs them to stay, to live, to grow, to prosper.

5 Comments:

At Wed Jan 18, 11:55:00 AM PST, Anonymous lisa said...

The thought of staying in or returning to Janesville never occurred to me. But I know others who are thrilled to be there and would never leave. I guess some of us are wired differently. And some of us prefer accessories that don't, you know, puke on your sweater......

 
At Wed Jan 18, 01:13:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad I never lived in place that could be considered less cosmopolitan than Milwaukee.

 
At Wed Jan 18, 01:14:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cotton balls? Where are the tales of sex, drugs and violence? Ok, so that wasn't your life, but it wasn't David Frey's either.

 
At Thu Jan 19, 01:53:00 PM PST, Blogger Daily Tragedies said...

LOL! Lisa, I am totally picturing a brooch that pukes on you...sounds like a creation that Fred & George Weasley would sell at their joke shop! (Hi, yes, I read Harry Potter. It's higher quality literature than Danielle Steele, so you can just hush up.)

 
At Wed Mar 01, 07:34:00 PM PST, Anonymous Home Improvement Remodeling said...

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