What does it mean to live somewhere? Last October I stayed in Rome, Italy, where I slept in a hotel for nine nights after seeing the sights each day, but I don’t think anyone would agree with me if I started telling people I had lived in Rome. On the other hand, pretty much everyone would agree that I lived in Ridgewood, New Jersey after learning that I slept in the same house there the majority of nights between March 1962 and September 1979, when I went off to college. Where do we draw the line between a visit or vacation on the one hand and a domicile or residence on the other? Is it length of time? Anything more than a month in the same place? Or does it have to do with where we keep our stuff? When I went to college in Oberlin, Ohio, I brought a trunk full of possessions, including some blankets and sheets, lots of clothes, books, my guitar, a tape player and lots of tapes, and posters for my wall, but I still had a bedroom in Ridgewood that I returned to during breaks. I feel like I lived in Oberlin for those four years, at least during the school year, with occasional visits “home.” But I’m not 100% sure about that.
And what about the summer of 1983? Two friends and I drove out to Costa Mesa, California and stayed in a trailer where another friend was living with his wife and their child for a couple of weeks until we got a trailer of our own in the same trailer park and stayed there for another couple of weeks. We then left Costa Mesa to go to the San Francisco area, where we stayed in the lounge of a UC Berkeley dorm for a week before finding two rooms in a house in Oakland, where we stayed three weeks (and got short-term jobs) before driving back to Oberlin. Did I live in Costa Mesa? Berkeley? Oakland? Can I say I lived in California that summer, or was I just visiting?
“Why do you care?”, you might reasonably ask. Because I want to make a list – a list of every place I’ve lived. I’m going to use the criterion that being in the same general area for at least a month means I lived there, unless it is clearly a vacation (and I’ve yet to go anywhere on vacation for more than a couple of weeks).
Here’s the list, in chronological order:
4/61-3/62: Palisades Park, NJ
3/62-8/79: Ridgewood, NJ
9/79-5/80: Oberlin, OH
5/79-8/80: Ridgewood, NJ
9/80-5/81: Oberlin, OH
5/81-8/81: Boston, MA (Back Bay)
9/81-5/82: Oberlin, OH
5/82-12/82: Ridgewood, NJ
1/83-5/83: Oberlin, OH
6/83-8/83: California (Costa Mesa, Berkeley, Oakland)
9/83-12/83: Oberlin, OH
12/83-10/84: Ridgewood, NJ
10/84-11/84: Cambridge, MA
11/84-12/85: Boston, MA (Jamaica Plain)
1/86-8/89: Somerville, MA
9/89-8/93: Newton, MA (Newtonville)
9/93-8/01: Watertown, MA
8/01-Present: Waltham, MA
That means I’ve lived in 11 different municipalities in four states, all in the US. What about you?