Heidelberg Closed, Anchors Away

What’s in a Home?

Four and a half years ago, I wrote about the concept of “home” and why I find it complicated. I closed the post, essentially by pussing out, and claiming that home meant ALL THINGS. The truth is, it was my cowardly way of pretending to grasp something that continued to elude me.

Much has changed since then. I have had several different jobs, moved to Seattle, got married, bought a condo, and settled in for the long haul.  Yet after all that, I’m still no closer to truly understanding what “home” means or what it’s supposed to feel like.  As an alternative, I’ve begun to imagine that there are invisible threads connecting me to all the places I’ve lived. No matter where I go, these lines extend out from me, like a giant spiderweb – and I’m always in the middle. At the end of each thread is an anchor, keeping the web from floating away.  The size of each anchor varies based on how long I lived in a particular place. For example, San Luis Obispo has a small anchor, while Heidelberg’s anchor is quite large.

By visualizing this, I’m able to provide myself with a sense of continuity and feel like I’m living one life instead of several short lives, written together with non sequitur transitions. Mind fuck? Probably. But it’s effective…until one of the anchors breaks.

Oh, Heidelberg…

I could spend hours writing about how Heidelberg is a magical city, how everything is picturesque and there’s no better place on the planet.  Really, I could. I could spend even more time talking about how lucky I was to grow up there as an American and how I’m grateful it’s where I spent my childhood.  But I won’t. It’s not necessary. For those of you who had the same experience – I don’t need to explain. For those of you who were not there, and are still kind enough to continue reading this post, I’m not going to bore you with romanticized descriptions of cobblestone and castles. Just suffice it to say: I love Heidelberg.

As a “homeless” person, so to speak, one of the ways in which Heidelberg comforted me was the knowledge that there was still an American military presence. There were soldiers continuing to cycle through base and their children were cycling through the schools.  Every year, there were more people like me. Somehow it was reassuring.

We (Heidelbergers) have all known for quite sometime that the bases were downsizing and the schools were closing.  Knowing in advance doesn’t make it any easier when it actually happens.

I feel as if my home town was wiped from the map – as if it may have never existed in the first place. The city is still there. It’s still picturesque. Heidelberg continues to sit on the Neckar, spring still smells like flowers, and the castle still stands (or so I will assume until otherwise informed).  But the lifestyle I grew up with is gone. My anchor is gone.

Adrift

I was 11 when I moved to Heidelberg and 19 when I left. I’m 30 now. With my years in Heidelberg seemingly so far behind me, I wasn’t prepared to be so affected by the American military moving out.  I didn’t guess I would feel like that 19-year-old kid again, leaving my city, wondering if I’ll ever belong somewhere.

This will pass, of course.  Seattle is a fantastic place and I love my life here.  But this week, I’m just a little sad…and maybe a bit homesick.

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