Sometimes “Home” is a Paradox

One of the weirder paradoxes in my head is that, even though my life in Napa was plagued by abuse, when I think of my “happy place,” it’s in that house where I lived.  One of the best ways I have to calm myself down is the close my eyes and picture myself standing or sitting in the front yard, the pool in front of me, the warm sun overhead, looking out over the fields and hills that surrounded us.

And this is the house where I was beaten.  Where I was told, over and over, that I was worthless.  Where I was told to shut up whenever I tried to sing, where I was ridiculed for being into books and reading, where I was made to fear the very people I should have felt safe with.

And yet…

It’s also the house where I grew up riding horses, and had a swimming pool in the front yard (it made sense there) in which I could be found 90% of the summer.  It’s the place where I learned not to fear heights as I climbed ancient volcanic rock formations and stood looking out over the valley below me.  It’s the place where I learned about the red-tailed hawk, and watched them soar.  It’s the place where I learned how to deal with rattlesnakes and scorpions.  It’s the place where I turned the volcanic tor in my backyard into the surface of various planets for my toy spaceships to land on, where I raised chickens and goats and cows, where I learned to milk a cow or a goat, and most importantly, where my imagination learned to soar.

Napa is my hometown, even though it’s the third place I lived in my childhood, and I only lived there from age 6 to age 13, and again for a few months when I was 15.  And that particular part of town where I lived is always going to be “home” to me, even though I probably won’t ever be able to afford to live there again.

I’ve lived in 21 different houses or apartments in six cities.  And at the end of the day, that place where I felt the most fear is also the place my brain calls “home.”   I keep an eye on that property, because if it ever goes on the market I want to see it again.  It’s changed, in some major ways, from the place I grew up, but I want to see it, partially from curiosity and partially to exorcise the remaining demons.

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About Michael Johnston

Father of a third grader, high school English teacher, writer. Forty-three years old and feeling almost every bit of it on some days, and not a bit of it on others. Based in Sacramento, California, USA
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One Response to Sometimes “Home” is a Paradox

  1. Nadya Duke says:

    I totally get this. I absolutely love daffodils, which I discovered during the absolute worst year of my childhood. I used to think it was a paradox, but recently it occurred to me that good things were even more precious in the midst of the horror. Perhaps the tor and the hawks and the cows would not have meant as much if not for the stark contrast between good and evil. And so these refuges have a firmer grip on our hearts.

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