Dorothy said it best.
But what or where or who…..is home? The address that currently shows on your driver’s license? The house or the town that you grew up in?
Home. Over the years, I’ve had a few and yet I still find myself searching for it.
Home, in my early years were my parents and my sister. It was a red house that sat by the river overlooking the dam. It was the big weeping willow tree that loomed in the back yard that I would hide in and read for hours at a time. It was Riverside, a place where hide ‘n seek was played at dusk and the boundaries were the whole neighborhood. When the street lights started coming on and one mom yelled it was time to come in, we all skipped back home. Life inside that little red house wasn’t always the best, but outside it was a 1970’s Polaroid full of Stretch Armstrong, plastic Evil Kneival Halloween masks, Dressy-Bessie dolls, and plaid polyester stretchy pants. My parents divorced and my family moved out before I reached middle school. The innocence of childhood, of my childhood, nothing but a few black and white pictures found in an old photo album. It was the 70’s after all and pictures weren’t taken as often as they are in today’s digital world, but with my parent’s divorce the pictures got divided and lost in new marriages and many moves. Every once in a while I’ve gone back to sit on the fence across the street. I can still hear the faint shrieking of children’s laughter in my memory, but the magic of home has long since faded. My willow tree is gone. The peeling red paint replaced by light green vinyl siding. What was once home was now nothing but a ghost of a house sitting alongside the river with some nameless family living inside its walls.
My teenage home was a loud one. There were lots of us there. My father remarried and we became a family of seven in a four bedroom house. There were rules, not something I was used to. I spent a lot of time away from home at work or school or friend’s houses. There was family and laughter there in that drafty three story brick house, but I didn’t appreciate it as I should have. I moved out not long after I graduated. My father sold the house when my step-mother passed away thirteen years ago. For a tenth of my life it was home. When I am in town I rarely even drive down the street and when I do I barely give it a nod of acknowledgement.
I lived in a few places in between my hometown and starting my family. I crashed at my boyfriend’s family’s house for a bit, rented a house with a friend in Vermont, stayed in a tiny little apartment over a general store during my pregnancy, another apartment as I gave birth to my second child. There were moments I remember with fondness, but never go back to visit.
My next home was the farm. I loved the farm. It was my children’s great-grandparents property and had been in their father’s family for several generations. It was ninety acres of peace and quiet, fields and trees. I lived here for seven years. My children grew here. I thought I would be there forever, but once again divorce, this time my own, sent my world scattering. My children’s father continued to live in the home I made and their grandparents and aunts and uncles came to live there after I left. My daughter got married in a beautiful ceremony in the hay field that overlooks the property. It has become a place for large family gatherings that I am often still invited to and enjoy returning to. This home was a special one mostly because it has been a constant place in my children’s lives.
I moved from the farm to a town close by, in a small house. We lived there for four unceremonious years before moving a half an hour away to Keene, where we stayed for the kids high school years. Honestly, I hated the house. It was old. The pipes froze every winter. It was a mobile home and although I owned the home I rented the lot and the landlords would threaten eviction at the merest infraction of rules (I cut a small, dead tree down; we parked our cars two feet on the grass, my house had mud spatter around the skirting; I kid you not…..). The house was old and ugly, but it was home. The kids made friends, went to dances, played sports, worked in town. We played catch in the yard. We took pictures before Prom and graduation in the yard in front of the pink flowering rhododendron. It was hard to leave this home, but when my youngest headed off to college it was time.
I lived briefly in two other places not even important enough to mention before buying the home I live in now. I love my house. My youngest comes “home” from college here. My older children and their families stop by and visit often. We celebrate holidays in my small living room with extended family. When I get home at night I close the door and enjoy the serenity of the woods and quiet that surrounds me, but it lacks the memories that flood back to me when I think of other places we’ve lived. It keeps me wondering…..where is home? If I clicked my ruby red heels together three times, where would I end up?
I’ve come to learn that this place that I’ve been seeking to get back to isn’t just the roof currently over my head and it isn’t the house I grew up in. It’s closing your eyes and breathing in memories. It’s the people you share your life with even if you don’t see them every day. It’s your grandchildren chasing your dog in your yard giggling like crazy. It’s get together’s with your three best friends from high school. It’s a place you return to camp every year. It’s your favorite lake you paddle on when the weather is warm. It’s a path in the woods that you wander every Saturday morning when there isn’t two feet of snow. Home isn’t always a place or a person, because that place can change or that person can leave. Home is a feeling…THAT feeling….. when you close your eyes and remember you’ve been here before and that there’s no place like home.