The house my parents have lived in for twenty years is not my home. They moved there after I graduated from high school. There is no room that is “mine”, although one has my old bed. My sister and nephew live there, along with my parents, but I always feel that I’m visiting. Not like an overnight guest at a friend’s or at a hotel. Something more than that and less.

Is there an obligation of being related to someone? Beyond the common thresholds of society, I mean?

Does an outsider notice more strangeness than a member of a group? I see interactions in my family differently than if I felt full integrated, but it’s not just my position that’s changed. I have changed. They have changed. I can see the differences, even from a few years ago. In what they talk about and how they phrase it — even though it is unclear if they are couching their language because of what they believe about me, how they know me.

The house has a smell, not bad, but different than my apartment. Their house has strange small-sounds: the refrigerator and other appliances, the ticking clock, the creaks as it settles in the night. No squirrels run over their roof in the pre-dawn and the neighborhood owl doesn’t hoot, but they have wind and flapping vents and coyotes yipping in the dark.

Clutter and dusty picture frames annoy me when I visit others, but I have excuses for the small piles and spattered backsplash at my home. Am I judging them or me? Or am I just noticing?