I can mark the exact moment I realized I had fallen in love with Glasgow.
It was a fine day — for Scotland — a bit cloudy but dry and cool. I was wandering around Glasgow Green, this big, grand park speckled with litter in the city centre on the River Clyde.
I was solitary but not lonely. It just was too nice of a day — for Scotland — to stay inside, and walking alone is one of the best ways to allow my thoughts to meander in lazy circles.
It was by the bank of the slow, quiet Clyde, close to the McLennan Arch, when a thought suddenly, clearly announced itself.
I love Glasgow.
I love Glasgow.
At heart, I am an urban girl but picky about my cities. Chicago, windy, over-priced Chicago, has dominated my heart my entire life, and pollen-stricken, steamy Memphis and Atlanta have sneaked up on me. While love can be all-encompassing and unconditional for multitudes of people, I was not so sure about cities. There are so many songs and stories about the concept of “home,” how home is where the heart is, how there is no place like home.
Perhaps it’s the product of six moves and a family history of immigration but a part of me has always wanted to be able to point at one place and claim it as mine. And already, too many cities, I thought, had a hold on my heart.
When I first beheld Glasgow, it seemed big (but not too big) and vibrant and gritty and chaotic and lovable. Yet, there was no instant click, no key turning comfortably in a lock.
It was not home. Not yet.
I do not know the process of what turns a place into a home. My first week was a blur of paperwork, jet lag, sore calves, and frantic housekeeping. I was confused by the weather (in an hour, it will shine, rain, hail, then shine again), befuddled by the accent, and sharply homesick for Tagalog, hushpuppies, and familiar faces.
But the seed was there.
Was it turning a corner and hearing bagpipes at the Buchanan Galleries? Sweating and spinning at a céilidh? Getting fish and chips (for a discount!) when the sky was purpling on a Sunday evening? Savoring the gravity of tall tombstones in a graveyard on a hill? Finding a Topshop shirt for 50 pence in a charity shop? Sipping a special blend at the Willow Tearooms? Wandering in the eclectic Kelvingrove Museum? Or hearing a proud Glaswegian talk about how the architect wanted the City Chambers to resemble a cathedral while gazing at the magnificent Banqueting Hall?
Perhaps all of the above. Perhaps none of the above. Perhaps it’s something more mysterious, deeper than the mere listing of features and activities.
It is all right to love more than one city, to claim more than one place as home. Cities cannot be jealous. They cannot be possessive. They cannot even hold you tight, close fast their arms, so that you can never leave them. They are not alive like that. They can only accept, not keep.
But the human heart, yes, can hold a multitude of locales, an endless amount of homes. In me rest the imprints of countless places: New Brunswick, Los Angeles, Chicago, Greenwood, Memphis, Atlanta, Manila, Angeles City, New Buffalo, Oviedo, and now, hilly, temperamental, perpetually grey Glasgow.
Some places I was in for weeks, others years. Some places I return to again and again, others only saw me once. Some places I loved while there, some places I hated and wish never to return.
Still, they, all of them, were, are, home.