Today, for some unknown reason, I looked up the apartment complex where I lived in Jackson, MS for 19 months. In the center of the giant homepage photo I saw my exact apartment. The address was 24-something? 28-something? I don’t even remember, but I recognized the way the hills and sidewalks led to my door.
It’s not a small complex, the oddity of my single apartment being the homepage focus threw me for a moment.
Of course it’s still there. Of course it looks the same. It’s only been 3.5 years since I left. I was only a year and a half of that apartment’s history. I don’t know when they were built, but the decor screamed -sometime before I was born-
I hated that apartment. It was ugly and brown, lonely and much smaller than any house I’d ever known. I didn’t really hate it. It just never felt like a home. It’s easy to misconstrue discomfort and lack of familiarity into disdain.
For 19 months I lived with no one but my tiny dog. She’d sleep all day while I worked and be bouncy and thrilled when I came home. I’d sit on the couch and throw the ball over the living room ledge and down the steps. She’d run up and down the stairs to retrieve it until she needed to stop for water. When I missed home I’d cry and she would curl up to me in the chair that used to belong to my grandmother.
One of the two Christmases I was there my parents drove all night on Christmas eve so we could wake up together on Christmas morning and open presents before I had to go to work.
I never brought friends over to that apartment. A couple of my closest friends picked me up from there a few times to go out to dinner or a movie or whatever casual things girlfriends do together on the weekends. I never invited them inside.
I didn’t make much money and I didn’t have much of an eye for decorating on a tight budget. But mostly, I didn’t feel like inviting friends into a place that didn’t feel like a home.
I see the irony – it probably would’ve felt like a home if I’d invited friends over once in a while… or even just once.
Regardless, that apartment was my home. For a year and a half of my 28 year life I lived my daily moments between those walls. It remains the only place I’ve lived alone. It was the first place I paid for with my own money. It’s where I laid my head at night after a long day of work. That home… and all of the tiny moments inside of it… are where I realized the hardest truth of being the youngest child – you can’t be a kid forever. Eventually you’re just the youngest of a family of grown-ups.
I slept and showered, cooked and ate, listened to music and played fetch with my dog in that home every day.
I’ve lived 26 years and five months of my life in the Carolinas. When I’m 95, maybe I’ll have lived 93 years and five months of my life in the Carolinas, but Mississippi has a hold on those 19 months. The place I never let feel like home is an unchanging part of my history, and the longer I’m away the more I appreciate that.