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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Feb. 21, 2024

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Press Talk: How do you define home?

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Jim's summer bocce hall party always draws a large -- hopeful -- crowd.
Jim's summer bocce hall party always draws a large -- hopeful -- crowd. (Photo contributed by Lou Brancaccio) (Lou Brancaccio) Photo Gallery

“Papa was a rolling stone.

“Wherever he laid his hat was his home.”

That 1972 Motown hit is an undisputed truth but — like most everything in life — how one defines home is often more complicated.

Here’s a compelling statistic: If you randomly gathered 10 people at a Christmas party this year, seven of them will tell you they have always lived pretty close to the place where they grew up. Now that’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It’s simply a thing.

And that “thing” has meaning because most of us — in part — will define home as the place where we’ve always lived. Yep, I’m pretty sure you can divide humans in two categories: The vast majority who stuck around, and those who wander.

Those who stick around have it much easier creating a core group of friends. They get to know the place like the back of their hand. They know which shortcuts to take, when to avoid Fourth Plain Boulevard and where to buy hot Italian sausage.

Those who wander embrace the adventure. There’s something new around every corner, something exciting to explore. There are new friends to make, new traffic jams to avoid, and you eventually might even make your own hot Italian sausage. (Hey, not every community has a place that can figure out good Italian sausage.)

I became a wanderer early on.

I grew up in Chicago. The University of Florida was my first real stop. Getting into the newspaper business sealed the deal. Back when that industry was booming, if you wanted to move up, you almost always had to move out. So I went from Florida to New York to California to Vancouver. If you’re plotting that out on a map right about now, you’ll see those are the four corners of our great country. To satisfy my wanderlust even more, I signed up to be part of a USA Today assignment that in 1987 visited all 50 states in six months.

My last stop — the place where I spent more time than any other — was The Columbian. It ended up being my dream job. Great place, great boss, great newspaper. But all good things must come to an end, so five years ago I retired. I had dragged my wonderful wife, Maley, around the country with me and I’m pretty sure she found the good in all these adventures. But she’s a Florida girl at heart and we decided to build a winter home on the state’s southwest coast.

We spent our winters in Punta Gorda and our summers in Vancouver. Hey, if you didn’t already know, southwest Florida has the best winters in the country, and Vancouver has the best summers.

Life was good.

But when the great pandemic hit two summers ago we found ourselves stuck in Florida. Cross-country travel was out of the question, so we stayed in Florida all summer instead of traveling to Vancouver. That was a wake-up call.

There we were, paying all the expenses for our Vancouver home but not stepping foot into it for well over a year. Remember, I was in the newspaper business. You ain’t getting rich tickling typewriter keys or covering a city council meeting.

So last summer we made a difficult decision. We decided to sell our Vancouver home. We actually had planned on doing nothing until next summer. Then, literally at the last minute before we flew back to Florida, we put it up for sale.

You’ve heard all the stories about Clark County’s hot real estate market. They’re true. Our house went “sale pending” a few days after it was listed. We were offered more than our asking price, and the paperwork was finished a few days ago. Thanks much to our real estate agent, Deborah Blom. She was beyond outstanding.

• • •

So what changes?

Yeah, selling a home is a big change. But, again, how do you define home? Do you have to own a place to be part of that place? Our plan is to still spend part of the summer in Vancouver. The only difference is, when we come to Vancouver, we’ll rent.

Maley and I have far too many friends in Vancouver to not continue to visit. Next summer we still will walk our Salmon Creek neighborhood. Bill and Sandy will almost always be sitting in their front yard greeting us and striking up a conversation. Garry will always have a pun to share if we catch him in his driveway. Richard, the neighborhood locksmith, always had a kind word about this column and we still hope he’ll share his prime blueberries. With all the backyard apples we doled out, I am pretty sure we might still get a pie from Anne.

There are many elected types I will stay in touch with. Some will even call me back.

And of course I’ll attend Jim’s summer bocce ball party. After Maley and I won the thing a gazillion times in a row, we were finally upset. Last summer we regained the title. Will we win again?

• • •

As far as this column in concerned it will continue … for now. I say “for now” because nothing is forever. I still enjoy rattling a few cages and waxing philosophic on occasion.

So today, I lay my hat in Florida. Come next summer I’ll wander up to Vancouver and lay it there. That’s what a rolling stone does. That’s one way to define home.