Beacon Hill in Boston wasn’t home. It wasn’t even where I thought I might want to end up sometime down the road. It was (and is) a stunningly beautiful neighborhood though. With its ornate brownstones, views of the river, and proximity to the heart of Boston, it was a neighborhood I used to like to walk through when I worked for the State of Massachusetts. I’d moved to Brookline, a Boston suburb so close to the city so as to be almost indistinguishable from it, after finishing my undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke, a women’s college about 1.5 hours west. It seems that our class split in three with most of us either moving to New York, DC, or Boston. I chose Boston because a friend had an extra room in the apartment she was sub-leasing and I was able to get a job working the field I wanted to be in (does that even happen anymore out of undergrad???).
I don’t want to pretend that I was any more intuitive than any other twenty-two year old at the time, but I will say that my four years of living in that area seemed to be one (good) coincidence after another – so much so that even a self-absorbed young adult recognized my good fortune. My college has a strong alumnae association and when I decided I wanted to go into law and conflict resolution, I found an alumna who worked in the field and a few months later I had a job working for the state. My friend found the apartment and with the apartment came a roommate who would, shortly after I moved in, introduce me to my future husband. In the meantime, I took a course on negotiation, met someone who worked for an international non-profit that ended up hiring me, then ended up working for the private foundation of one of that organization’s board members. I got married, got pregnant, and got into law school. It was a whirlwind of four years and a time and a place that holds a special spot in my heart and memories.
But it was never really home.
When I got pregnant my (and my husband’s) thoughts turned to our own families. His family was in India and we weren’t interested in moving to Mumbai. But my family was in California, a state I had always, and still, consider home. Maybe it’s because generations of my family are from there, maybe it’s because it was where I grew up, or maybe it was because that was where family was. Most likely, it was all of the above. In a lucky set of even more coincidences (and yes, some hard work too), my husband got a job offer in Mountain View (in the Silicon Valley) and I received a scholarship to attend Santa Clara Law school, twenty minutes from where he worked and where we ended up living. Both our boys were born in California – seventh generation Californian on my side and first generation American on my husband’s. We made friends, spent time with family, and yes, enjoyed the weather and wine. But somewhere else was calling to us.
At the beginning of my third year of law school, my husband’s company offered him a job near Seattle. I wanted the opportunity for him. We had promised each other during our wedding to try to always listen to what each other wanted – what was voiced and what was left silent in our minds and hearts. I knew he wanted the opportunity. I knew I could make it home. And I knew the flight was short between Seattle and Northern California.
And so we moved. We moved to a beautiful suburb and into a lovely home. We had horses for a short while (one of my less well thought out plans) and got involved in jobs (for us) and school and sports (for the boys). My husband’s parents came to live with us and though sometimes it was a little cozier than I would have liked, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Over the nine years we were there we made some of the best friends – friends we still see, friends we still travel with, friends our boys still consider to be second parents. After nine years, the Seattle area was as close to home as I could get. Without it actually being home.
After my mother in law passed away very suddenly in 2012, my husband and I did what I think a lot of people do when they’ve lost a loved one. We looked around and asked ourselves, was this what we wanted? Not from a job perspective, but from life. There was so much to love about where we were and even though I knew moving was the right thing, I still cried when we left behind our friends and our neighborhood and yes, even my job. But leave we did. Because we’d decided that what we wanted from life was family – what our “home” was, was family. Not just the four of us, but the big messy lot of us including my grandmother’s cousin twice removed on her father’s side (if you know what I mean).
We moved back to California in the end of 2012 and though it hasn’t always been easy – transition is hard in so many ways – we are surrounded by family. My boys see their grandparents nearly every day and their uncle as often as they can. Aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews are all within a few hours’ drive and it’s brought a sense of belonging and home I didn’t even feel when we lived in the Silicon Valley which is only a few short hours away.
But more importantly, what it’s also brought is the chance to embrace something I’d always suspected, but never really tested - that for me “home” truly is where family is. But I will also say that feeling these roots, this sense of belonging, has also given me the freedom to know something else I have long suspected - that I have family I have chosen too. I have family that live in Washington, in Idaho, New York, Massachusetts, and many other places. While it’s true, I have found my home here in Northern California, I’m lucky enough to have some of the best vacation “homes” all over the world.
Tamsen Schultz is the author of several romantic suspense novels and American Kin (a short story published in Line Zero Magazine). In addition to being a writer, she has a background in the field of international conflict resolution, has co-founded a non-profit, and currently works in corporate America. Like most lawyers, she spends a disproportionate amount of time thinking (and writing) about what it might be like to do something else. She lives in Northern California in a house full of males including her husband, two sons, three cats, a dog, and a gender-neutral, but well-stocked, wine rack.