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  • Gavin Miyakoshi

My Hometown

When I fill out forms specifying the name of my hometown, I write ‘Shanghai.’ This answer, however, does not tell the whole story. My hometown is my origin story, present, and destiny; no matter where I go, it will follow me like an invisible God.

A quick search on LEXICO.com for the word ‘hometown’ will gather a simple definition: the town of one’s birth or early life or of one’s present fixed residence.’ In some ways, this definition is helpful. We can happily let others know the locations of our hometowns, and from this simple information excited discussions can emanate, curious questions can be asked, and vivid memories can be shared like marshmallows at a campfire.

Yet, a one-word answer of ‘Shanghai’ seems to betray the truth. I might have ‘Shanghai’ written in my passport, and yes, it might be true that my’ residence’ is in Shanghai, but it is, despite what the dictionary says, anything but ‘fixed’. My home is as much my family as it is a place. My upbringing is rooted in Shanghai, but my family’s roots extend to Japan, and beyond those roots, there are untold stories and travels of my ancestors. Their journeys and experiences fold into my own, and I represent their combined stories.

My forefathers built their homes with humble tools. They may have cut down wood from their own local environment, gathered stones and rocks from nearby streams, and asked local volunteers to help put the materials together to form a shelter capable of housing loved ones. Inside this home, they would have cooked food for their guests and family, told extravagant tales to their neighbors, and created grand plans regarding where they would go next and glittering treasures that awaited them. Their successes and travels, threaded along by a series of homes and hometowns, leads to my own life and hometown today.

The first half of the word ‘hometown’ is ‘home’, and it carries connotations of belonging, safety and knowing. When I am older and have collected essential memories, good and bad, my home and feelings of residence will be connected inseparably. My home today, where I type this essay, is in Shanghai. My future home may be in an entirely different town, city, or even country. The word hometown is as fluid as my own identity and emotions and can never be held down to a one-word answer. A one-word answer is a one-track perspective of life, but life is multi-tracked, and some of these tracks will snap, break, extend, overlap and some are shrouded in mystery.

The next time you hear the question ‘Where are you from?’ or ‘Where is your hometown?’ take a pause and think deeply before you respond. Do not shrink your hometown into a word or phrase. Instead, let them know your story, who you are, and what you strive to become. Bring those who ask, should you trust and care for them, into your hometown and your life story. Your hometown deserves as many loving occupants as possible, and the beauty of one’s hometown is that it expands and shapes itself around the very waves of your life and experience.

 

References: “HOME Town: Definition of Home Town by Oxford Dictionary on LEXICO.COM Also Meaning of Home Town.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries, www.lexico.com/definition/home_town.

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