Early on in my life I learned the country that my family and I were living in, the country in which I was born, was not my home. My parents weren’t from England. My father was from Portugal and my mother was from Colombia. They had met in New York, where they had immigrated.
England was temporary, I was told. We were there because of my father’s job in the United States Air Force. The United States was another country “over there.” We would move there someday, but not before we moved to Spain, then back to England, and eventually to Italy where I spent my childhood into adolescence. Seven years later when I was sixteen, we moved to the United States.
Things were nothing like I expected, not like what I had seen in movies or through our single American TV channel. After finishing high school I would move several more times, either for school or a relationship or a job. The whole time looking for something—but every time I tried to uncover what I was looking for, I was bankrupt for answers. Everywhere I landed I felt restless, unsettled, like a perpetual outsider.
Early in our marriage my wife, Isabelle, and I were able to take a trip to Italy. Starting in Venice, we did a loop stopping in Florence, the Tuscan countryside, and Cinque Terre before ending back in Venice. Gelato aside, I was particularly excited about the trip because I hadn’t been back since my family moved to the States over a decade before.
Because where we had lived was close to Venice, we decided we’d stop there for a couple of days. I was eager to show our old house, the café we would frequent, where I played soccer, everything that had previously only been a story to her.
Our trip neared its end, and Isabelle and I made our way north through Pordenone and into Porcia. As we drove down my old street, I suddenly jerked the car off the road onto a large patch of grass just in front of a house bordered by fields and farmland. We had arrived but I nearly passed it. I didn’t recognize the house. As I got out of the car and stood in front of our old home, something in me collapsed. What had previously been a beige house with brown shutters was now lavender with white trim. The front yard where our Rough Collie used to trot had been partitioned. The cancello—the black metal gate to our driveway—was left wide open. It wasn’t what I went back to see. It wasn’t home.
In the months leading up to our trip, I was in a place of mourning the lost innocence of youth. But I convinced myself that while the idea of home had been ever elusive, this house and the culmination of the experiences during those years there would be the closest I’d get. While life around me was in constant flux, this house would never change. And I needed to get back to it. Because if I could, something in me would be at peace.
Instead, I would have to come to terms with the house I once knew only existing in photographs and brought back to life in the retelling of stories with my family. I would have to learn to sit with the tension of always feeling displaced, of not being able to “go back,” of having to learn to build a new home again with new people.
I may not feel at home anywhere on this earth, but it was a good reminder for me that while I was trying to peg down a place I could call home, the only true home was my heavenly one. The old place can’t satisfy, but I believe this is an awakening of a desire for our true home. And I long to awake, as if for the very first time, to the only home I may ever know.