Matt Sumpter, “Against Home”

I suspect home is complicated for all of us. — Yeah, I’ll leave it at that. — Returning home can feel like being blown not simply toward it, but against it. Wind shuttles leaves across a parking lot: walking to the house, watching those leaves traverse empty spaces right beside one, I can’t help but think the very sense of belonging family cultivates goes hand-in-hand with abandonment.

Against Home (from The New Yorker)
Matt Sumpter

Wind shuttles leaves across a parking lot,
each one a different weight, each weight
absorbed into the rustling like surfers
overwhelmed by waves. Father, my maple.
Mother, honey locust. I am nothing
but what your lives have made me.

It’s deeper than parents being a bit unwilling to let go. It has to do with how much is invested in home—we spend our lives making it a “safe space,” a place for nourishment dependent on our personalities down to the last quirk. I don’t think I need to spell out exactly how this can turn into dysfunction writ large. That dysfunction can’t grasp the world, not in the least. It teaches regard of the world as a dangerous, lonely, useless place. All other parents are mere trees, abandoning leaf-like children who scandalously want to be carried anywhere else.

Trees and leaves themselves, however, may speak the actual nature of things. Leaves are distinct with their own weight—each one a different weight, each weight absorbed into the rustling like surfers overwhelmed by waves. Home makes large assumptions, hearing only the rustling; there is some truth to the teenage cry “you don’t know me.” Home does not hear leaves as individuals, but one could hear the rustling as the interplay of different weights. The leaves gather. Home or no home, the world is all there is, and parents can only be trees—Father, my maple. Mother, honey locust. I am nothing but what your lives have made me: we can only be leaves, hoping for growth and stature among the wildness of things.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.