In my dreams at night, if I'm in a house, it's always my childhood house, the one I grew up in and lived in for 18 years. I haven't lived in it now almost as long, and I've lived in several residences since. But it's always that house in my dreams.
In sleep, I see its dusty gravel road. Cars kick stones into our yard and leave lingering clouds of dirt in the air. We owned an acre of land that was longer than it was wide and backed up to a stretch of forest full of mulberry and oak trees; year-round, the ground was covered with leaves that crunched underfoot and exposed your presence to anyone within earshot.
Across the road was an open field, usually as dusty as the road. I don't remember anything growing there. Fields defined and surrounded our town, fields tall with green corn or short with soybean leaves. Large yellow combines rolled slowly through the straight rows of produce.
It was always a little unnerving for me, to be out in the quiet, the solitude, the remoteness, the darkness. In the dreams I have, it's usually the setting for nightmares.
Now that I'm older, the fact that I lived there seems like a dream, a figment of my imagination. Growing up, I couldn't wait to leave it. So when I grew, I left. It is not my home anymore.
I have a home that I own, that I paid thousands of dollars for so I could say it was mine. I mow the grass and dust the shelves and vacuum the floors. I have a bedroom that I share with my husband, and I sleep there with him every night and dream about another home.
When I have plans to see my mother, I say I'm going home. She doesn't live on that dirt road anymore, though. She lives in a town and in a house I never really claimed as mine.
When it's time to leave my mother, I say I'm going home. I live in a city over two hours away, a city I'm not from, but a city I've adopted, a city I've learned to love, a city I care for and cannot bear the thought of leaving.