Changing my idea of home

Claire Goldsmith

My mom pestered me for days to help her decorate our Christmas tree this year (yes, we are a nice Jewish family with a Christmas tree). Swamped with homework and supplements, I resisted until she finally admitted that she was so insistent because the holidays felt especially poignant this year, since it’s the last winter I’ll be living at home.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, not because I’m worried about living at school or by myself in the future, but because it represents a completely different reality than the only one I’ve experienced. Unless I move back in after college, every time I stay at my house now will be a vacation — winter break, spring break, or part of a summer — but I’ll always be returning to a new home somewhere else.

I’ve called my current house “home” for my entire life, and pretty soon that’s going to change entirely.  There’s so much of my life tied up in memories of my house, its surroundings and the convoluted city in which I live.

My house is in the canyons (we are, as my family likes to say, hill people) and everywhere I go requires a 10-minute drive just to get to the Valley or the Westside. It may seem a little annoying to be separated from most things by a series of twisty canyon roads, and I certainly felt that before I got my driver’s license, but I’ve come to appreciate the relative calm of where I live. Despite living in the nation’s second largest city, my house feels much more remote, like a treehouse in the forest.

Driving out of the canyons, however, I remember what I don’t like about Los Angeles. It’ll always be the city I grew up in, but I’ve never really felt at home outside of my neighborhood. Hollywood and Wilshire make me feel unsettled somehow, like I am lost in a sea of cars with the sun beating down on me.

Also, traffic. I live my life by the tides of hundreds of thousands of cars, changing my schedule based on where all these other people will be at any given time. I’ve spent so much time sitting in my car at a stoplight or just waiting in a line of cars, and I wonder what I could have done with that time instead. Our urban sprawl just exacerbates this – my friends don’t live just down the street in that idyllic small-town vision, but instead they’re miles away, in completely different sections of the city.

It’s not that I want to flee to a small town, because I think growing up in a huge city like this one exposes you to so many cultures and experiences that it’s difficult to take those influences away. I’m grateful for these things that are so specific to L.A.: some really excellent afternoons at the Getty Museum and LACMA, learning to sail a boat by myself, a love of sushi, getting to see movies before they’re released and being able to swim outside in the January sun.

Unlike my mom, I don’t feel so poignant about leaving this behind (or at least, not yet). I think can bring with me those things I like about this city even while establishing my own roots somewhere else. After 18 years here, I’m ready to call a new place home.