What do people mean when they ask where I am from? “It's such a simple question, but these days, of course, simple questions bring ever more complicated answers,” says Pico Iyer. “When my grandparents were born, they pretty much had their sense of home, their sense of community... And nowadays, at least some of us can choose our sense of home, create our sense of community, fashion our sense of self, and in so doing maybe step a little beyond some of the black and white divisions of our grandparents' age.”
When people ask me to define my home, I find it annoying that they expect a one-word answer. I say that I have lived in a number of places but favor London and New York. My London coworkers say that I am “one of those people without a home,” meaning that my home is not limited to one city. Although my grandparents had a sense of community in their neighborhoods in the United States, mobility was at the heart of their worlds.
Grandmommy, who traveled often, was born in Georgia but moved to Pennsylvania when she was four years old. She spent a great deal of time in the Pocono Mountains, Florida, and Mexico, and she never forgot to sent me postcards and photographs while she was away. Although her parents were Southern, she moved at a Northern pace. My grandfather, who died before I was born, learned to speak Italian fluently. He had many Italian friends, and I imagine that Italy played a dominant role in his definition of home. Grandma H. was born in England and came to the U.S. as a war bride during WW II. She was resilient in overcoming obstacles and bold in her decisions. Grandpapá was born in Puerto Rico, which is the source of Mamá's stellar cooking and consequently the inspiration for the lessons in cuisine she passes to me.
I am a blend of cities, and my sense of community is not based on my residing in a specific neighborhood. Home may or may not be the physical ground on which I stand, but it is definitely a feeling that moves and moves with my soul. “It's the place where [I] become [my]self.”