Posted by: patenttranslator | June 14, 2019

Home Is Where They Have To Take You In

“Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

From Robert Frost’s poem “The Death of a Hired Man.”

Now that our house, or our former house in Virginia, has finally sold and new buyers are living in in it, most likely a young family with children and at least one dog because who else would need such a big house, I sometime find myself pondering the question of what is really this thing that we call home and how we define it to ourselves.

When we think about what our home is, most of us will probably think back to the place or the house we grew up in as children. I know I do. Although I came to America as a penniless refugee in 1982, it did not take me that long to buy our first house in California. America was good to penniless refugees who came here with nothing but a good plan back in the early eighties, and I hope that this old tradition will continue for a few more centuries. We sold my first house 7 years after we bought it to trade it for a much bigger house in Virginia in which our children grew up and where I lived with my wife, now ex-wife, for the next 17 years, until the October of last year when I decided to return to my native Southern Bohemia soil.

But during all those years when I lived in California and later in Virginia, and there were 35 of them, there was only one place that I saw in my dream when I was sleeping, and it was not our sunlight-filled first house in Santa Rosa, California, which I loved so much, with the green grass in the backyard, the swing set for the kids and San Francisco only 40 minutes away over the Golden Gate Bridge, nor the second house, which I bought mostly to make my wife happy when the patent translation business was booming, where it took me less than 10 minutes to walk to a fishing pier to be completely surrounded by water during high tide, watching crabs scampering in the mud and big white birds with a nasty shriek catching small fish in the briny water.

It did make her happy for quite a few years, but not forever. In my experience, there is nothing in this world that will make a woman, any woman, happy forever …. except maybe lots and lots of money, but even that is probably doubtful.

What I saw in my recurring dream was a fairly small apartment in Český Krumlov in which I lived from about the age of 8 until I graduated at 18 from high school and moved to Prague to study languages, first French and Latin, and then Japanese and English.

The apartment in in Český Krumlov was not big, just a hallway, a kitchen and two rooms, but it was located in the corner of the central square where everything was just a few steps away. A store where we could buy groceries was just in the next building, the butcher’s shop was across the square and the restaurant was about fifty meters away. These shops are gone now, replaced by expensive hotels and shops selling souvenirs for tourists. Most locals had to move out from the center of the medieval town, rendered virtually unlivable by tourists for most regular people who used to live there for some eight centuries.

During evenings after a hot summer day, my father used to send me to the restaurant on the square to bring him his favorite beer on tap (Budweiser), which is still my favorite beer now. The restaurant used to be called Měšták back then and the prices were very reasonable. Now it has the pretentious name The Old Inn and it is so expensive that only tourists go there. I used to have a sip or two from the big glass pitcher of beer on my way back and my father pretended not to notice, because I knew enough not to piss him off by drinking too much of it, and he knew that a sip of beer never hurt a kid.

Most apartments in Europe are very small by voracious American standards. You can’t put a big, American house, with the garage and the lawn in its front yard and in the backyard on the square of a medieval town, it would not fit there.

But in any case, as my recurring dream seems to prove, it’s not the size or the luxurious layout and amenities of your apartment or house that makes your home. It’s the people who live in it with you. And the people who used to live there with me there are gone now. Those who were much older than me, called parents, died many years ago, my children have moved out and now live thousands of miles away from each other in opposite corners of United States, my ex-wife moved back to Japan, and I moved back to my native Bohemia.

They had to take her back in Japan, I suppose, when she had to go there. The house where she grew up in Tokyo and where we used to live for a while after we got married, sleeping like any Japanese couple on the floor on tatami (mats) in a room without any furniture except for a kotatsu, is still standing, and her mother, who lives alone in a pretty big house for suburban Tokyo and who is almost ninety now, must badly need her help.

They had to take me in back here in Bohemia too and this is my home now again, although as of yet, there are no other people living in my apartment besides me to make it a real home … and probably never will be, not even a dog.

Still, I am looking for a slightly bigger place here to move into it once my lease expires on my current apartment in three months. I saw one that I really liked in another part of Ceske Budejovice last Sunday.

It was actually a friend, a fairly recent one, who sent me a link to an advertisement for that apartment. It’s not big and not very expensive either, but it does have a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen and a balcony.

The most important thing was, as always, location, location, location. It is located in a renovated old house that is located in an area not far from public transport (I don’t have a car now and don’t want to buy one), with several restaurants and cafés nearby where I could have my breakfast, lunch or dinner, since I don’t like (or know how to) cook.

But even more importantly, it sits just across the street from a quiet café overlooking a walking path by the river were families can go for a short hike with their doggies and babies, enjoying the tranquility and the view. There is even a boat that you can take for a minitour on the river to a nearby Hluboká Castle and back. Last Sunday, when I was sitting there sipping a fruit cocktail on the veranda with my new friend, it seemed like paradise to me.

But on Tuesday, I got an email from the real estate agent informing me that somebody else snagged the apartment before me.

Oh, well, it’s OK. I have plenty of time and I’ve always enjoyed the hunt for a new place anyway. Always have, and always will, I guess.


Responses

  1. Nice article, Steve. I hope you will get this other flat and wish you a smooth removal! As I have been moving 16 times in my life, and this in different countries, “home” is for me always – in my dreams and in my thoughts – the place I live at the moment with the ones I love. The place where I have a good physician and dentist, and a permanent reserved table in the next pizzeria 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As I live alone, home for me is where I for the moment have a Stammtisch in a restaurant or pizzeria as you put it. Which seems to clash with the lyrics of the Czech national anthem “Kde domov muj” (Where is my home), but so be it.

    Like


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