We all kind of know what Dorothy was talking about, right? The comfort of returning to the familiar, after an epic, dream-like adventure.
It’s exciting to see the world, meet new people, and experience different cultural phenomenons, but then the longing for ease and familiar kicks in — the place to put our toothbrush, the scent of our own pillow, the same silly jokes with the same old friends. These personal details combined with simple rituals — a cup of tea in the morning, a favorite TV show at night — make up that unmatchable feeling of home.
One of my favorite parts of being back in Cleveland is getting to spend time with my beloved family members at a moment’s notice (that’s my brother depicted here). My siblings and I have vivid memories of our childhood years, which means we have a long list of decades-old inside jokes. We can recite lines to one another and respond back with more from the same or other contexts, each building on the next in a cacophonous dialogue, blending child-like memories with grown-up reflection steeped in hilarity. Outsiders might not understand us at all; it’s almost like our own dialect.
Not all of my memories of Cleveland are perfect. My adolescence had its own wicked old witches, riding their bikes up and trying to take my dog. I found those years troubling, but I wasn’t much of a rebel. Instead, I tried to be cool, smart, and make nice friends, and it worked. Though, sometimes I wonder if I missed out on something by not rebelling. Maybe I could have been a lot more rock-n-roll. And, besides that, it’s taken me years of reflection to even realize the depths of that time I spent worrying so much about what others think.
Something in the air in Northeastern Ohio haunts me, as if it carries the memories of the times that troubled me growing up. Sometimes I think people haven’t changed at all since middle school and high school — that an old attitude pervades people’s approach to life in Cleveland.
Yet, because it’s so familiar to me, I’m not quite sure. When something is home to us, we can’t always see its idiosyncrasies, and we’re overly sensitive to things that remind us of what has troubled us in the past. Still, it’s as if we crave the familiar, longing for that perfect comfort that comes from already knowing. Perhaps it gives our brains a rest, to not have to navigate new places, and to be able to operate on “auto-pilot.”
Personally, I can’t do it for too long, or I get stir-crazy. At the same time, when I travel often, I can’t wait to get back to the comforts of home, where everything is exactly as I put it, the difficulties are familiar, and the lay of the land is fully known. What is this seductive sleep-walk? This call to do things by rote, and keep to known territory? I know I don’t want to pause for too long, but it sure is wonderful to rest there, and replenish.