The very first one I can remember was white. It was followed by a quintessential red one, a metallic one tarnished with age, and then a wooden one that always leaked after a fresh rain fall. My latest one is also white, weathered from its years in the throes of nature.
A new mailbox always signaled a new set of neighbours and friends. With each change of zip code, a host of novelties surely followed. My nomadic childhood instilled a knack for assimilating seamlessly into shifting environments. And while adaptation to transition became second-nature, lapses out of my comfort zone were always triggered by a singular question that, ironically, was a constant across every new environment in which I found myself.
“Where are you from?”
It’s an innocuous question provided in an assortment of iterations that challenges us to define home. Being the new kid in town, if I answered with New Jersey, there was always a follow up, “Right, but where are you from from?,” with the expectation that I would answer with my birthplace Seoul, South Korea. Neither of these answers are untrue, but I have rarely attributed home to any one physical location solely by virtue of it being my birthplace or my post’s return address.
Home is reminiscent of ancestry, of family, of a childhood brick house, or perhaps of our first campus dorm room. Even more so, it is evocative of familiarity, of safety, and of solace. Home, for me, is less a physical construct and more an emotional attachment; a sense of belonging and worthiness, without the need for justification or validation. With such liberty, I am able to discover a little piece of home at every turn, from the most ephemeral to the most enduring.
Home lingers in the comfortable silence of an aimless drive with my younger sister in the passenger seat, or in the unbridled enthusiasm emanating from the voice of a distant friend over the phone. I’ve found it while learning of the dramatic childhood travails of a chess-playing Englishman, or while counting stars lying on the speckled shores of Cádiz, Spain. It’s where I can get lost in the adventures of a lightning scarred wizard and his best friends. Where I fell in love with a logophile with a kindred love for obscure, extraordinary words; who embodies the warmth of sun in wintertime.
Home is where I feel most free; where I am allowed to love and be loved purely and ceaselessly. It is the reason why the colours of the mailboxes have always been and remain irrelevant.