Finding Your Way Home
By Sabrina Lauredent
There are several ways to define home, ranging from “one’s place of residence” to a “place of origin;” home is most often defined in regards to a person’s physical location. However, home can be both a physical and mental location. One definition that encompasses this thought describes home as being a “familiar or usual setting; congenial environment: also the focus of one’s domestic attention” (Merriam-Webster). For many, throughout several generations, “home” is where loved ones, places, smells, and more reside; it could be the house on the hill, a spot in the coffee shop, or a moment in time. Overall, home can be described as a place in which one feels comfortable, relaxed, the place one stays until they leave, if they ever do. Either voluntarily or coerced, the act of leaving home inevitably leads to the feeling of homesickness; the yearning for comfort and familiarity. Upon leaving home, each group in every generation, across all cultures, did their best to find their way back “home” to overcome their homesickness. Through writing, songs, dances, clubs, or even Skype, people have attempted and often succeeded in bringing parts of their past and culture to the communities they resided in.
Though far from home, often thousands of miles away, migrants, travelers, students, etc. brought pieces of home with them to their new settlements. Whether it was a shrine, artifact or pictures of their family, something familiar existed in an unfamiliar place making them more at ease and more “at home.” Eventually, with the help of these artifacts and connections with communities, new homes were established. Such was the case with several students parting ways during graduation at their boarding school. “…It was not an easy thing to say goodbye to friends who shared a brotherhood and sustained one another through periods of dejection…saying goodbye was a re-enactment of the day the bond with their mothers and fathers was sundered with ‘Goodbye’” (Archuleta et al, 51). Despite calling the place of their origin home, these students were able to create a new home – a place where they were comfortable and familiar – by forming bonds and gaining a sense of community with those around them.
Other cultures were able to find their way “home” by bringing parts of their culture to their new settlement. Such is the case of Chinese immigrants in California as they re-enacted festivals from their homeland. The discrimination Chinese immigrants faced led to the development of communities in which they were able to recreate and practice their beliefs and cultural festivities like the Lunar New Year.
Chinese Dragon, May 2, 1902. Image Courtesy of The Library of Congress: American Memory: Immigration, American Expansion
The picture above depicts Chinese immigrants in California, participating in a festival featuring their cultural dragon. Each participant is carrying a part of the dragon together as a community.
Chinese girl of today” Mar. 1922 Courtesy of The Library of Congress: American Memory: Immigration, American Expansion
The photo above depicts an Asian American woman applying traditional makeup for what seems to be a festival. Although in a different country, she maintains her cultural practices through festivities like the one she is preparing for. In a new country she is still able to express her heritage with beauty and pride.
This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.” A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here.