In November, my sister, Aby, said she was coming “home” to spend some time with my mother. Aby lives in Illinois, and during her visit “home”, she got to talking about what “home” really is, to her and to her children. We were at P.F. Changs. It was a bit noisy. I had a beer. And I remember thinking that I hadn’t thought about “home” all that much, and I wonder what got her thinking about “home?”
Afterwards, though, I thought about it for a bit. In fact, for quite a bit. Over time, I came to the conclusion that for me, Aby and our brother, “home” growing up was where Mom and Dad and our siblings were. Going “home” after school was to be with our family. Then, when our mom and dad got divorced in the early 1980s, our “home” was sold. My mom moved into a condo, my dad into a house in another town and I, in college, suddenly didn’t feel I had a home any more. I felt homeless.
Now, looking back at the time of my parents’ divorce, if “home is where the heart is” then I could have adopted the attitude that I had two homes, instead of just one. My mom’s condo could have been considered “home” and my dad’s house in another town could have been my second “home.” But those places didn’t quite seem like home to me.
But why? What else made a house a “home?”
Then I thought about the home I bought in 1996 with my husband, Mark. If ‘home is where the heart is,’ well, let’s just say that Mark has a big heart, loves me as much as my parents (he says more!) and he’s now the person I go home to every day. He is the primary “heart” in my home.
But just looking at that photo it’s obvious there’s a lot more to this place called home. Home is also where two dogs engage in bone wars…
…where a young cat plays with the dogs…
…where an old cat grumps mostly wants to be left alone…
… where animals are tended to until–and including–their dying day…
…where wildlife can get corn and sunflower seeds year-round, whether they come in alone…
…or with a few of their pals.
Home is also where I can wear sweatshirts, jeans and a baseball hat and they don’t have to match because unless I go outside or answer the doorbell, nobody else will see. Home is also where my outfits get even worse when I stain or paint.
Home is where I can ponder cleaning now and again and actually do it even less often.
Home is also an imperfect place whose imperfections I can ignore or fret about–the crack in the kitchen ceiling, the brass light fixtures in the hallway that don’t go with the rest of the house, the crack on the bathroom floor. At the end of the day in my home, it’s the hearts that matter. The rest can–and does–wait.
Home is also the structure whose walls hold the photos of days gone by, capturing brief moments that happened inside and outside these walls. On winter days in particular, I look at those photos and know how blessed I am.
Home is also where what I say or do stays in my home. It’s like being in Los Vegas without all the crowds. And unlike Los Vegas at night, it’s safe in my home–my thoughts are safe, my actions, my words, secrets, and expressing whichever part of me I want to…even if I’m not sure what part that is.
Home is also where I roll over in the middle of the night and find someone who loves me at my side, that same someone I can call cute names without anyone else hearing.
Home is where my step kids come to visit with stories of their travels, their careers, their hopes and dreams. Home is also where we laugh and sometimes cry, and raise a toast to one another in celebration.
Home is also where home-made cards are cherished like no other presents, no matter what home they were made in.
And while only two of the four step kids lived here for any length of time, I hope they know that my home is their home when they need it to be–it’s where they can always come no matter what.
That, of course, got me to wondering how they define home. And so it goes.