“Home is where the heart is.”
It’s a cliché we’ve heard over and over as the distinction between a house and home. A house is a place of dwelling or the physical substance. But a home is something that’s intangible – it’s family and the feeling of belonging.
Once a month, we head over to a friend’s house for a night of board games. As we settled into play, our friend took out her copy of “Origin of Expressions,” a board game similar to the popular “Balderdash.”
In “Origin,” players are given a popular phrase or cliché and have to write a convincing story of the phrase’s origins. The player who convinces the most players, or who correctly attributes the phrase, wins the round. So, when “home is where the heart is” came around, it got us thinking. The proverb itself has been attributed to Pliny the Elder, who speaks of the emotional attachment of the home.
On our drive home, the phrase was still on our minds. What did it mean if we felt we had two homes?
For the first time, it hit me that I had moved to St. Louis eight years ago. In fact, I’ve spent most of my adult life here. We’ve built relationships with close friends, joined organizations and become members of our favorite museums. Because I’ve done most of my driving here, I know how to get around much more here than I do when I return home.
And, of course, having lived our married life in St. Louis, it seems it’s the place that we’ve learned how to not only mature into adulthood, but to grow together.
And at the same time, both of our families are rooted in New Orleans. Our favorite foods and recipes come from New Orleans cookbooks or memories of how our parents made certain things.
We still fight over the “right” way to make red beans and rice. (Our compromise is to alternate recipes each time we make it – my dad’s and then his mom’s.)
We still look forward to the times we’re able to come home, to catch up with family, to visit with our parents.
I used to think that this was a normal trend. After all, the U.S. Department of Education has noticed a trend in students migrating to public colleges and universities out of state. While these public educators have historically served in-state residents, owing primarily to state financial aid, since 1986 the number of out-of-state freshmen attending public institutions elsewhere has nearly doubled.
To me, this suggests that students would graduate and begin careers nearby in the cities they had spent the last four years.
But that’s not the case, according to a recent Pew Research report. Instead, as of 2016, 15 percent of millennials were returning home. Not only were they returning home, they returned to move back in.
Today’s young adults are much more likely to remain living in their parents’ home for an extended period than prior generations (10 percent of Generation Xers in 2000, 11 percent of Late Boomers in 1990).
It’s likely that millennials have migrated back to their parents because of the rising cost of living independently, increasing amounts of debt and declining wages and employment.
So, what does it mean to have two homes? We’re still not sure. We’ve bucked the trend to forge our own home, but it also means multiple heartbreaks.
Each visit to family is a reminder of our separation and the unknown. But it’s also a reminder of the importance of our marriage – of remaining strong and growing together.
Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.