Home Away From Home

JOHN KLEINSCHMIDT (MArch ’16)

Did you ever notice when you go to somebody else’s house, you never quite feel a hundred percent at home? You know why? No room for your stuff. Somebody else’s stuff is all over the goddamn place!

A Place For My Stuff

George Carlin, 1981

Arriving at my parents’ house in Wisconsin after time away, the first few seconds are the best. Nostrils flared, I suck in the air, greedy to savor its otherness before it dissipates into familiarity. For a moment, it’s a new smell, not mine. Home is most vivid when you can compare There with Here, Then with Now. As George Carlin suggests, home isn’t where you live; it’s the stuff—objects and memories—you bring along to measure the distance between familiar and new. The farther you go, the more careful your selection—o n l y y o u r b e s t s t u f f w i l l d o . It’s the reason I slipped a harmonica in my bag on a trip to Beijing—a compact unit of my identity for testing out in a new place. Late at night, I played along with Little Walter while sitting in a hot bath watching a Chinese variety show called “Happy Camp,” relishing my new surroundings and delighting in my new perspective.