People keep asking me if I’m going home for Christmas, and I never know exactly what to say. The simple answer is that my family isn’t Christian, which is generally enough to stop that particular line of inquiry dead in its tracks. But the more complicated answer is that, really, I don’t even have any idea where “home” would be.

If I close my eyes and think about the concept, the first image that comes to mind is a wooden gate my parents installed at the top of the stairs when I was little to keep my brother, sister and I from tumbling down in the dark.

That house is still there, but the gate is not, the people who live at the top of those stairs are strangers, and the neighborhood outside has changed beyond recognition. I’ve been back there a few times in the past years, and felt nothing but disorientation.

I would love to visit my parents, but it would be just that – a visit, to see them, in an unfamiliar city that holds no other attractions.  The rest of the people I love, friends and family both, are scattered throughout the various cities, countries, continents I’ve lived in over the years.

There’s a freedom in rootlessness, I suppose. I have no home-baggage tied around my neck, no particular place I’m bound to more than any other by love or by obligation. I remember years when I would happily call any city home if somewhere in it, I had a bed with sheets on it, a key to get to that bed any time I wanted, and a bicycle of my own. My material needs might have increased a bit (it’s hard to imagine being separated from my books, for example) but nothing fundamental has changed. I’m free to go anywhere I please and make a life for myself, follow my work and my desires anywhere they lead me.

But there’s something about this time of year that makes me a little jealous of those who have the security of a home and a neighborhood they will always belong in.