When I was a child, this was my hangout for some reason. I would sit on the seventh of our 13 stairs because it wasn’t upstairs and it wasn’t downstairs. The house was crowded back then; I didn’t truly have a room of my own so it was where I could sometimes be by myself. It’s where I sit now.
Forty-one years. A lot has changed in this house. A lot has changed since I unofficially moved out in 2001, officially in 2006, permanently in 2009.
My bedroom in no way resembles how it looked when I perfected its design. My 19-inch television I bought with my own money in the late 1990s sits in what was once my uncle’s room then my sister’s then my grandmother’s then my office in an entertainment center from Best Products I built with my sister in the early 1990s. Its simulated oak plywood’s warping mimics the now obvious curvature of my TV’s cathode ray tube in the era of flat screens.
Outside, the 41-year-old driveway still leads to the street that hasn’t been repaved since I’ve been alive and probably sports its original asphalt. The house across the street is still made of not red but pink bricks.
Back inside, there is an odd mishmash of the past four decades. Mostly cleaned out what should be the pantry today as a rerun of What’s Happening? played. Several times, I asked if an object had been in that room since that episode was new.
If I’m lucky, I can tackle one more closet at least before heading back to what I now call home. I have a little over a decade before all this is mine, what can’t/won’t/shouldn’t go into my house but can’t/won’t/shouldn’t be thrown away goes into storage and I become a landlord. I have time to purge. It’s odd to lie in my childhood bedroom, wondering if I should rip it all down to the studs or if I should hire a property management company or sell the whole lot and continue our 100+ year history of owning land elsewhere.
This staircase is the same but it doesn’t feel the same. Hampton is home but it doesn’t feel like home. After being homesick in 2006, I have no desire to come back here.
It’s only been three weeks. It feels peculiar to be longing for home — my bed, my couch, my (soon-to-be) wife — while I’m 120 miles at “home.”
Sometimes at work, I look in the mirror and ask myself, “Who is this man? When did I become this adult?” When did this break get made, when did Hampton become my mom’s house, not mine? When did I sit on this stair, though, and fully grasp that, regardless of what I think of and call of it, someday it will all be mine? When did this “break” not break me being home?
I took Exit 265C in a car emblazoned with Exit 265C (X-IT 265C) and now I’m writing about it on exit265c.com. Regardless of what I say, I took ownership of this all a long time ago.
It might not be home any longer but it always will be. It’s where I came from and I care about it enough to make it a part of me. Because it is. Take away the user names, license plates and websites and it still is.
I am home. And when I go home, I am home. And when I go to Richmond, I am home. And when I wander the boardwalks on the shores of Jersey, I am home.
Elliott Robinson is Exit 265C. Exit 265C is home. I am home.