The poet Robert Frost answered that question by saying, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.” in his poem The Death of the Hired Man. I have always liked that line. It is very comforting. It says, there are people who will welcome you in when you have nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to.
I was brought up in North Andover Massachusetts. Its population was around 11,000 when I was young. It is about double that now. My family helped settle the town when it was still known as Andover. That was 1644. To be clear, North Andover is now a town of its own having been separated from a much larger Andover. I lived in a house that had been in my family from around 1790. But when I was just 16, I was sent to a private school in New Jersey. And so began my many years of alternate “homes.” I lived in Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Hawaii, as well as Europe and Asia. But my heart was always in North Andover.
Living in Hawaii was great fun for a while, but there came a time when I knew it was time to go home. And so I did. I was married and had one daughter. We first lived in Leominster Massachusetts, then Lawrence Massachusetts, Manchester New Hampshire, and finally Methuen Massachusetts. If you are wondering why North Andover is not among the towns the reason is simple. North Andover has become a rather expensive community to live in if you are looking to buy a house. Today I live in Cambridge Massachusetts which may sound all well and fine, Harvard and MIT and all, but it is not home. It just happens to be where I live at present.
I have friends from all those years who have moved and lived in towns, some far distances, from where they were born. I have on occasion asked why the move but I have never found a definitive answer. I have one friend who was from Maryland and now lives in remote northwestern Montana. Another who lived in North Andover and has lived most of her life in Arizona. I could not do that! But I truly do not understand the differences in our motivations.
I am moderately happy to at lease living within a short drive from my hometown. I can visit there any time I please. My family no longer owns the house I grew up in. My sister lives about 5 miles from there in Methuen, and both my parents are deceased. But I cannot get past this strong desire to return to North Andover and live out my life.
I do not have any notions of it being like it was when I was a child. That is ridiculous. But I do feel like I belong there. I wish I knew why that pull is so strong, not to overcome the pull, but to explain it.
The pictures are a few of the scenes around North Andover. The last is of the old Bell Labs in North Andover which, if you note, has my family name. We also have a mill, a hill, and a pond bearing our name. The black and white picture gives a hint as to why. That was the home of Samuel Osgood who was the first Postmaster General of the United States in Washington’s cabinet. Maybe that is why there is such a pull.
Well, if any of you who read this have moved quite a distance from where you grew up, share with me your feelings. Is where you are home, or are you like me, longing to return to the place of your birth?