losing home

Note: As I mentioned in this post and this post, at the end of the week I will celebrate having lived 8 years in my house in South Minneapolis. This momentous occasion (8 years is, by far, the longest that I’ve ever lived in one place) makes me want to reflect on the meaning of home. I hope to do that in a series of posts over the next couple of days.The following is my third post.

I’m excited to celebrate my 8th anniversary of living in South Minneapolis this Saturday, but it’s really got me thinking about how, just as we were moving into our South Minneapolis house in 2004, my sense of home was crumbling. A few months before we bought the house, my parents sat me down and told me that they were planning to sell the family farm. That farm had been in the Puotinen family for almost 100 years and it was, as I expressed repeatedly in the two farm films, the place that I considered to be my home. In the midst of frequent moves, both as a child and adult, the farm had remained a stable and enduring space for nurturing and connection. When they told me that they were selling it, I knew that some important tie (to family, to past generations, to a homespace) was being severed. A year after losing the farm, my mom was suddenly diagnosed with a death sentence: stage 4 pancreatic cancer. By then, we had been living in our South Minneapolis for a little more than a year. While she beat the odds and lived until 2009, the moment of her cancer diagnosis in October of 2005, shattered my world and further eroded my already fragile connection to home.

In the years since the loss of the farm (fall 2004) and my mom’s diagnosis (fall 2005) and death (fall 2009), I’ve managed to reconstruct a sense of home and feelings of belonging and connection in my South Minneapolis neighborhood. I love where I live and I feel at home here. But, it’s still not (and might never be) the same as the sense of home and belonging that I felt in the UP and with my mom. Usually, I try to forget what was lost; to move forward and celebrate what I have and where I am now. But every fall, in the months of September and October, when those losses first happened, I can’t help but remember what I no longer have.

Yesterday, as I was revisiting footage that I took at the family farm in 2002, I found some clips of me talking to the camera (which I inexpertly set up on a tripod in a field) about the farm as home and of my mom talking with me (holding the camera) about the farm, home and nurturing/being nurtured. These clips are a powerful reminder of just what I’ve lost and probably won’t ever rebuild. As I watched and re-watched them, listening to my mom passionately talk about having a place and people who celebrate and accept you and about the role of a parent it hit me again: losing your mom really sucks.

I’m resisting the urge to qualify that last statement with something like, “but I’m okay” or “it’s gotten easier with time.” Even though I am okay and it is easier than it was right after she died, it still sucks to have lost her. I need to always have space for expressing this undeniable fact, for never forgetting my troubled space of grief.

After watching the clips of me and my mom, I decided to do a (somewhat) rough edit of them and post it on Vimeo. I can’t decide if I want to do more with them, like adding in some of my own voice-over + past photos.  For now, here’s the video:

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