"Home" by Matthew Taw

Category: Third Culture Kids

dsc02226I’ve lived in Qingdao long enough to call Americans foreigners. I turn and stare at anyone who has blond hair or fair skin. This ocean city of mine, Qingdao, is what I call home – my building complex, my fourth floor apartment, and my bottom bunk – these are the places in which I lay back and wrestle with the world’s problems. Yet home is more than just a place, more than an American passport, a house in China, a Korean lunchbox or a vacation in Thailand. A house isn’t always a home. It’s the friends, the experiences, the push-shove relationship between siblings and family members that make home what it is. The house simply sets the stage for the home; it’s the seashell where the emotions and pastimes grow into priceless pearls.

Zac, my younger brother, and I have shared a room since the beginning of time. He has always gotten the top bunk, and I the bottom. It’s one of the unwritten laws of house-dom, the same that says he always washes the dishes and I always rinse. Firecrackers, magnets and saw blades rest on our desk in an upturned Frisbee. Suction cup marks decorate the windows, mirrors, and pictures around our house, all from our Nerf guns. Every kind of ball imaginable litters our closet floor: basketballs, soccer balls (size 5, 3 and 1), volleyballs, beach volleyballs and mini volleyballs, baseballs, footballs (a glow in the dark one too), golf balls (plastic and real), tennis balls, ping pong balls, bouncy rubber balls, balls with spikes, balls with Dalmatians and exercise balls. And then, in the far corner of my room, across from the coat rack, is my perfect little bookshelf. Six rows of a child’s treasure land, all lined up in perfect order, rarely touched, but simply looked at and admired. This place, my room, this is the place where wild things are, where imagination rules unchained.

There I have attacked vicious refrigerator boxes with knitting needles, booby-trapped my door to ensure that no one else enters, cried when my family gave our cat away, shot lampposts along the outside sidewalk and then hid behind the curtains. I have joined the Dark Side and killed Obi-Wan, made improvements on Calvin’s transmorgifier, and stored jellybean rations for the winter. In my room I can whoop and laugh or cry and yell, even blow up the world and start it over again. My bedroom door is the only earthly obstacle that checks my power.

Hypothetically hypothesizing, if I were to do something totally crazy like drive without a license (parental permission granted), forge a signature (a teacher told me to do it), steal Zac’s Christmas candy (peppermint patty), or even catch Swine Flu (no one noticed though), and for some outrageous reason actually get caught then quarantined or arrested, two things would come to my mind. First, I’m hungry. Second I want to go home. So where is it I want to go? Outer space, Jusco, school, a cardboard refrigerator box, or my cozy warm bed with a down blanket? I would totally and completely want to be in my bedroom, my indiscoverable fort, my impenetrable castle, my five-seconds-from-the-kitchen-where-my-mom-makes-parmesan-chicken-and-mashed-potatoes (and that solves both my problems) getaway, my home.

Although, my bedroom is unparalleled in amazingness, like the apple in pie, the Krispy in Kreme, and the Shake in spear, there is another place that I call home. This home is more than anything on this earth. This home reaches to eternity. Even after my house has burned down, my closet light has gone out, the ocean has dried up, my feather blanket has been ripped to shreds, foreigners have ceased to exist, and the world has passed away, there is still a place where I belong and where someone has searched me and knows me by name. That is the home in which, one day, I will live, to infinity and beyond.

By Matthew Taw, a "Third Culture Kid" living in Qingdao, China. Published with author's permission.

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If you are a  TCK who loves to write, I'd love to hear from you! Email me your best TCK essays, musings, poems here: libby[at]libbystephens.com  ...I can't promise they will all be published but I will be featuring a few on my blog from time to time!

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