Everyone has a different idea of “home.” To some it’s the people who come to mind when you think of home, to others it’s a specific place. The year was 1995, and my parents were actually buying their first home. I was turning nine and not happy about it. The first two months of my life were spent in Sag Harbor, then we moved back to New York City. The way my parents tell it, by the time I was entering kindergarten we needed a bigger apartment or we had to get out of the city.
The cottage we ended up renting in northern Westchester (to see if we liked the area before putting a down payment on a house) was adorable and I did not want to leave it, mostly because the family we were renting from had three dogs that roamed our property and I loved them like my own (in retrospect, this would have been the appropriate time to barter for a dog… if you’re making me move, it’s time for a dog!! Waiting a few more years to get the most perfect dog ever I guess turned out okay.)
Nineteen years later, I’m in that same home discovering a story I wrote in school about how much I hated this new home and didn’t want to leave my best dog friends. The chapter of hate was followed by a chapter of “Today my parents signed the mortgage papers, I am now a homeowner” (proof of what little I knew about home owning).
My mother and I have a hard time divesting things… clothes, old school papers, arts and crafts projects, etc., but it was time to go through the basement and throw out a lot of things. Turns out I was pretty ruthless at letting go, which pleased and surprised my mom. I made her keep some of the stories I wrote because obviously when I’m a famous writer someday, everyone will want to know that I’ve always been one and see my humble beginnings—right?
As much as some things have changed over the past twenty years (new appliances, an addition to the house, new front steps, and when I go home again later this year, a renovated guest bedroom), it’s also amazing how much hasn’t. My bedroom is almost exactly how I left it ten years ago . . . a time capsule, if you will. When I’m home for the holidays, in my room, it feels like I’ve been transported back in time, surrounded by photos from camp years to high school and college hanging on my walls, posters of all the bands and movies I loved, representing a very specific time period. I can’t say I feel that different either, being at home… mom always making sure that I’m fed at every meal, driving me to and from the gym since we only really have one working car. Sometimes, it’s just really nice being taken care of.
When I went home for the holidays in December, we took a trip back to Sag Harbor. I have zero memory of the place, because, like my dad told at least 26 people (or everyone we encountered at the end of the earth, aka, the East End of Long Island), it’s been 26 years since we’ve been back there. Aside from the bougie shopping areas that are East Hampton and Southampton, this part of Long Island was very different from the part I’d known growing up. It had much more of a northeast summer town feel than the beach clubs of the south shore.
I love history, and I love traveling, so visiting a place that’s a part of my personal history had a lot of meaning—especially when my parents got to telling stories. Sag Harbor is a cute town, and I humored my father by sitting on a kiddie ride I apparently enjoyed as a toddler (yes) 26 years ago, but luckily the rain saved me from posing for too many photos. And even if my father had this great idea for lunch at a restaurant in Montauk it never occurred to him might be closed, the drive was worth it. You can learn a lot about your parents on a road trip. And maybe even something about yourself.