ll journeys begin at home. And, with any luck and a fair headwind, that is where the best of them end.
Sometimes the journey home can be rough, beset with tragedy, misadventure, and reversals of fortune. Just when you think your odyssey is complete and you steer your ship toward your home port, fate intervenes. But eventually, like Odysseus (from whom the word odyssey is derived), the traveler comes to rest. And there’s no place like it.
For more than a decade, I really didn’t have a home. Not a permanent place where I felt I belonged.
I had a home, built from the ground up in a new subdivision in Florida’s Space Coast. This was not the house of my choosing. It was a cookie cutter home on a cul-de-sac off the Interstate. I had a view of a manmade retention pond and could hear the trucks roaring by all day. It was a home that was not a home, a 2,000 square foot barn with a kitchen and bath in which my then-wife and I stored our earthly belongings.
But that house was lost to a divorce, and thus began my peripatetic journey, bouncing from one Florida coast to another, eventually coming back to the Space Coast, in a quaint 1920s Spanish stucco structure that I would call my own for close to 10 years.
I voluntarily exiled myself from that place I had come to think of as home to strike out to new worlds, new territories, new experiences, and new people.
I landed in Los Angeles, found a woman from my past, got married. We made a home together but it didn’t last.
I returned to Florida, to the house of my father, with whom I lived for three months until I got back on my feet.
I moved to Gainesville, where I had gone to university decades earlier, lived in places that I couldn’t really call home. Small, temporary dwellings, dumps really.
Then I moved back to Tallahassee, where I lived earlier during my career as a journalist, where I married, divorced, and remarried, hopping from one rental to another before a seven-year sojourn in the Las Vegas desert.
I’d come full circle but I still wasn’t home. I rented a hovel, a place I was embarrassed to invite people over, except for a girlfriend or two. For five years I stayed in that place. For two reasons — the cheap rent and the primo location.
When the landlord announced he was putting that place up for sale, I decided it was time to invest in my own personal stability and sink my roots.
I bought a house.
Just going through the process of pre-qualifying for a mortgage and finding a place was a journey. Even after the closing, I felt I had not arrived.
There was the business of packing up my belongings and moving them into my new place.
Once I did that, and brought my cat over, I finally felt like I had arrived.
The 80-year-old house creaks with history as I tromp across its well-preserved hardwood floors, and is filled with warmth from my wood-burning stove, nestled in the corner of the front room.
I’ve been in the house for two weeks. I am still unpacking boxes, finding a place for everything, assembling furniture and searching estate sales and thrift stores for home furnishings I still need, like a couch and a dining room table.
My bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and office are mostly set up. I’ve got a lot more to do.
But as I walk through the back yard, surveying my azaleas, bananas, and Meyer lemon, my chest swells with pride.
I own this.
This house is mine. This patch of ground it sits on is mine.
And I feel I have reached my journey’s end.