Home is where the (insert noun) is.

I haven't lived under Mom and Dad's roof in six years. Six. That's how long it takes a newborn to grow into a first-grader. I'm sorry, but that's a long time. Yet, under Mom and Dad's roof is still the only place I call home.

I've lived in seven different "homes" since I left the old nest. In six different municipalities. I've collected things along the way: two cats, a new computer, my own couch. I even have a garage now. But none of this qualifies my place of residence as home. My moving habits work like clockwork: every May the boxes are packed and a new lease is signed. I still have boxes that in eight months' time have yet to be unpacked. Why bother? I'll be packing them back up in four months anyway.

Maybe it's this lack of settling that's caused my homelessness, for lack of a better term. Or maybe it's something else.

When I first went away to college, I returned to my parents' house on weekends solely for the purpose of visiting a boyfriend or friends, or a dentist appointment. Some cause always brought me home. I had spent 17 years under that roof, why come home more than absolutely necessary?

But now it's a whole new ballgame. I crave going home. Friends? Maybe I'll visit the very few I've kept in touch with. The Boyfriend? He's not there. But Mom, she's there. Dad, too. There's a bedroom with my name on it (not literally). The cats. Dad's cheeseburgers. The couch waiting for me to curl up on all day and watch bad TV. The familiar.

I lack that familiar in my own world, the Real World, we'll call it. In the Real World there's bills to pay. Cats to feed. A job to succomb to. There' s no home-cooked meals in the Real World. Mom's not in the Real World to make me an egg sandwich at 10 p.m. when I'm hungry. No one says good night in the Real World, or closes my bedroom door for me after I fall asleep. Whose idea was this Real World, anyway?

My parents no longer live in the house I did most of my growing up. In fact, it's a brand new house in a brand new city. In Illinois even. * shudder * There's no closet that's over-flowing with miscellaneous artifacts of my adolescent years. Those things that always waited for me at home. I have those things now. They're waiting for me to make a home. (They might be waiting a while. In my garage. In a box.)

Yet this new home in a new city and a new state is still home to me. Maybe my definition of home isn't the Real World where I keep my posessions and hang pictures on the wall. Maybe my definition of home is the place I go to escape the Real World. A place with no drama. No bills waiting to be paid. No job. The place where I can lay on the floor and listen to Mom talk on the phone to Grandma. Or listen to Dad feed the cats at the same time every night. The place where I don't have to do anything, but everything feels in place.

Maybe one day I'll have a home. A dog in the backyard. A husband washing the dishes (that's right.) Home-cooked meals. Maybe I'll even learn to make my own egg sandwiches. I'll create my own familiar.

Don't tell Mom and Dad, but I think I'd prefer their familiar. And Mom's egg sandwiches.