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This I Believe: Home is Not a Place

Audrey Hemken - Hillsboro High School
Beatrice Bonner
NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS
Audrey Hemken - Hillsboro High School

I was five years old, and my dad had just been stationed in Germany. That meant my first airplane ride was going to be around 13 hours long. Because I had only seen an airplane from the ground, I was obviously terrified to be gliding through the clouds. The day eventually came, and my family of five, and our beagle with the obnoxious bark. packed up our gold Mazda minivan and drove to the airport. Once on the airplane, it was a long ride, and I intensely chewed bubblegum while watching The Little Mermaid. Two years later, I experienced the same plane ride, but as a family of four. My dad kept the dog. Unfortunately, this time around, I traded the beautiful green mountains of Ramstein for cornfields. I don't remember much from that plane ride but I do know that was the day I found a new definition for home.

When asked where their home is, most people will respond with a physical address. My answer is a little different. By age 17, I’ve had addresses in three different countries, and I've never had a place to refer to as my childhood home. Since that first flight, I've spent countless hours in an airport or on an airplane. I've come to know that I love the 6 a.m. bite from the wind while unloading the heavy luggage; suitcases whose wheels barely roll because of the number of shirts I stuffed in them. I love the long walk down the memorial hallway in Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and my mom’s “I missed you” hugs. I love the Dunkin Donuts coffee that is too sweet and the anticipation of my next adventure.

On the other hand, I hate the tears that roll down my cheeks and the guilt that's piled up from leaving one parent to see the other. I know I hate the security guards who can’t ever agree on the precautions they are supposed to take. I hate the smell of bleach in the bathrooms and my mom’s goodbye hugs because leaving her is so difficult. While I have so much love for my dad, the only things that have ever been consistent in my life are airports and my mom. Throughout my parents’ divorce, the one thing that never changed was my mom. She's never left my side and will always be where I feel the safest. I'll forever have a love-hate relationship with airports but when I'm waiting to board that plane, there's one thing I know: if this big metal bird is taking me back to the corn, no matter what beautiful scenery I'm leaving, I'll be home. So yes, to answer your question, my home is 1234 Main Street, but my home is also wherever you find Amy because my heart's home isn't a place. It's my mom. Home to me is not a specific place but more of a feeling I get when with the one I love.

This I Believe Illinois is NPR Illinois' annual essay program for Illinois high school seniors. An expression of where their minds are as they prepare to enter the adult world. This I Believe was started by radio journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1951 to allow anyone able to distil the guiding principles by which they lived. Special thank you to our sponsors: The Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise, State Journal-Register, BLH Computers, KEB, and Marine Bank.

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