Home is wherever I’m with you

Time is an ever-sliding puzzle. You piece together what you can in hopes that everything will fall into place, before it all slips away.

Having pieced together a continuing hodgepodge of permits and visas, such was my seventh year abroad. At long last I was on track for permanent UK residency. Just a couple more years as a self-employed writer and I could broaden my vocational horizons and forever remain. That was the plan.

As I’d discovered during my first time back in the States, home as I knew it no longer was. That world had moved on without me, and me without it.

Of course it was wonderful to see friends and family (who even expressed interest in my stories and pictures) but an odd melancholy soon replaced the novelty of this prodigal’s return. I was a marginal man, a cultural misfit suspended between two societies, who needed to get away. Not that I wasn’t also a misfit in England (still flew Old Glory on the 4th of July) but England was home.

Nowadays I lived in a South London terrace house with close friends who had a room to let. Residing on the third floor like some beatnik cousin the party never stopped, much to my liver’s dismay. Decidedly libertine at times, surprisingly genteel at others, it was some kind of life, with weekends in the country, holidays on the Continent, and evenings at the Lamb & Flag with the best mates there ever were.

Granted, some months were more flush than others. While the growing collage of rejection slips plastered to my wall (for unsolicited manuscripts) served as a colorful conversation piece, there were times when the random £100 payments for contract work barely covered rent, groceries, and enough paraffin for the heater to keep my typewriter keys from sticking in the cold of winter.

No matter, just a couple more years and I’d be home free. Then I met Linda.

Bright, lively, the very embodiment of the winsome girl-next-door, I first saw her across the floor at a wedding reception in New England of all places. Straightening out my consignment shop jacket and tie, I ventured over and struck up a conversation, which miraculously led to a date. She came for a visit in April, and a longer one in July, and now we were tangled in a crazy, long-distance relationship. “She’s got brains and beauty,” chided a friend. “What she sees in you I’ll never know.”

When thousands of miles of ocean and half a dozen time zones separate you, new love ain’t easy. In those pre-Skype/pre-Internet days all we had – barring an exorbitant international trunk call – were words on paper to pull us through. Here are a few excerpts from my end:

…It’s the morning after the great Thanksgiving celebration and I’m scratching my head all the way to Strasburg …I, Winslow Pettingell, have a HANGOVER! It went well, everyone had enough to eat and we were all able to shift ’round to more important things… like drinking. Though I cruised through the party with my usual “big boots” something was amiss this year. Friends noticed, couldn’t believe it; I tried to hide it (reputation and all) but my mind and heart were somewhere else… across the pond… with you….

 …Pity you missed the recent weather we’ve been having. There’s nothing on earth like a balmy day here in the Home Counties. The assuaging effect is magic. Now the roses are out in time for your return. With any luck the vegetables in the garden will be ready as well…

 …This is in response to the void in my heart whenever I walk past the flower lady and realize there’s nobody to buy a bunch of mums for…

Thirty years on, it’s plain to see where things were going, and by now there was only a year to go for that permanent residency. She promised she’d wait… but what did that mean? A change in my immigration status wasn’t going to change hers.

Despite a Stateside visit and a New Year’s in Dublin, the future remained uncertain. No demands were made, but romantic relationships are based on intimacy and growth. If you can’t evolve and build memories together, you eventually evolve apart.

I wasn’t afraid of commitment, not with Linda, but giving up these friends and this life would spell the end of a looooooong adventure. To complicate matters she’d been offered a new position down in Washington and … ever wonder how to make an impossible decision? Try changing your perspective.

With the slightest of tweaks the way was suddenly clear. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her, and Washington, DC could be a grand adventure for the both of us. True, abandoning this hallowed home would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but just what is “home” anyway?

Home is where you’re safe and can be yourself. Home is where know you belong. Home, in other words, was wherever I was when I was with Linda. And I’ve been there ever since.


Released in 2010 as a single from their album, Up from Below, this particular concept of Home was written and recorded (with Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos sharing vocals) by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Alabama, Arkansas,
I do love my Ma and Pa
Not the way that I do love you
Well, holy moly me oh my
You’re the apple of my eye
Girl, I’ve never loved one like you
Man, oh, man, you’re my best friend
I scream it to the nothingness
There ain’t nothing that I need
Well, hot and heavy pumpkin pie
Chocolate candy, Jesus Christ
Ain’t nothing please me more than you
Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I’m with you
Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I’m with you
La la la la
Take me home
Mama, I’m coming home
I’ll follow you into the park,
Through the jungle, through the dark
Girl, I’ve never loved one like you
Moats and boats, and waterfalls,
Alleyways, and payphone calls
I been everywhere with you (that’s true)
Laugh until we think we’ll die,
Barefoot on a summer night
Never could be sweeter than with you
And in the streets you run afree,
Like it’s only you and me,
Geez, you’re something to see.
La la la la
Take me home
Mama, I’m coming home
‒ Jade?
‒ Alexander?
‒ Do you remember that day you fell outta my window?
‒ I sure do‒you came jumping out after me.
‒ Well, you fell on the concrete, nearly broke your ass, and you were bleeding all over the place, and I rushed you out to the hospital, you remember that?
‒ Yes, I do.
‒ Well, there’s something I never told you about that night.
‒ What didn’t you tell me?
‒ Well, while you were sitting in the back seat smoking a cigarette you thought was gonna be your last, I was falling deep, deeply in love with you, and I never told you ’til just now!
Home, let me come home,
Home is wherever I’m with you
Our home, yes, I am home,
Home is when I’m alone with you
Alabama, Arkansas,
I do love my Ma and Pa
Moats and boats, and waterfalls,
Alleyways, and payphone calls
Home is when I’m alone with you!
Home is when I’m alone with you



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