Tonight my heart is heavy. Do you ever long for home? Even if home means a new place where your mom and dad now live? I feel like my life has been all about following them around. And I was supposed to fly home to see my mom and dad for the first time in six months. But I’m sick, so I’m staying home. It’s practical, but I’m still missing them.
Mom and Dad kept moving every two or three years, but I put my foot down in college, when they moved to Syracuse, land of my birth. At eighteen and stubborn, I remained in Wisconsin, where I met my wonderful husband, and had three amazing, stubborn kids with him. We finally moved south twenty years ago. Cincinnati. My husband liked living in the Midwest and this brought us closer to my home, but farther away from his. I love him so much for moving us here. I love this place and our home in Cincy.
We just moved five months ago. In the same neighborhood, I must add. We bought the house I always walked by and admired from a distance. It is a beautiful house with a beautiful soul. And I seriously asked each of my children how they felt about us moving. If they wanted the home they had known for twenty years, I would understand completely and not move an inch. They loved this home in the same neighborhood. So…we moved. Three blocks away. To our home.
That’s not our home in the very first picture. The pic showing the window with snow outside is my home. I just love the floor to ceiling windows.
The first home pictured above reminds me of my grandma’s house, and I snapped the photo while we gassed up our truck down in Kentucky. I walked into the middle of the road to gaze at that house, and I felt home calling me back. My grandma died thirty years ago, but I feel her, and I wonder if the older you get, the more you feel home in your soul and you remember details long forgotten in the rush of living? Do you live far away from home too? That’s why I worked to make this place, and this city our place. Home…
I’m listening to country music and feeling low. Do I ignore the illness that’s stopping me from getting on that flight tomorrow and going back home? No. I won’t. I want to be home, and to feel their love, and share time with both of them. Meanwhile, I have my family here. Thanksgiving will be here, with my children bringing their own families home. I want to be grounded, planted and steady for me and my family. I vowed not to move (hey, moving three blocks does not count!) and stay here. For good. Forever. For them and me.
Do you miss home? Miss someone? It’s the people that make the place. I know, because I’ve wandered back to see the houses where inside I pleaded for one more story, sang out loud with the stereo, memorized lines for plays and learned how to bake. But the houses aren’t mine anymore and the people I love left long ago, so I walk or drive by and miss them, not the house (well maybe just a little). I think I was always a homebody, but when my dad decided a peripatetic life suited him, he didn’t bother to ask us kids, ever.
When we moved so far away from my grandma and cousins, I knew I was losing something, but only I saw it. The family all looked forward and I? Looked back. I wouldn’t be seeing my grandma so often and I needed her stories. They linked me to my past. They anchored me to a long line of musicians, and I heard about my coal miner grandpa playing clarinet in a band, though he could pick up any instrument and play it, and after a gig long after midnight, he brought the band home for coffee (why drink coffee before bed?) and food, and laughter. Shared laughter is a beautiful thing.
If you live in a small town with family nearby, I think you’re richer than most people. Do we have to leave to “get it”? Maybe. All I wanted was what my grandma had: all four sisters lived within two blocks of one another. My mom’s father died young, leaving Grandma a widow at thirty-eight, but my mother had aunts looking out for her, feeding her, hemming her dresses and making her do homework, because Grandma had to go to work full time once her husband died. No insurance money and lots of bills. But the family rallied around her and they got by.
I think they did more than just get by, because the stories I heard through the years about my mom cleaning the oven and calling Grandma up and asking just how could she get the grime to come off? Grandma told her to use “elbow grease”, and my mom thought about it, searching for it and finally called Grandma down at the store she owned, asking, “Where do you keep the elbow grease?” And the people visiting my grandma at her little store burst our in laughter! Stories. They link us to the past. They pull us into the warmth of love, trust and caring. They push us forward.
One day when I was back in town for a funeral, I took time to drive by and looked at Grandma’s house and the porch where I sat on the swing, singing quietly to myself, with the air perfumed by lilacs in spring, the scent of rain in summer and the homey scent of woodsmoke in autumn. I sang the songs my mom sang of teddy bears having a picnic. Mares eating oats. And I listened in to the conversation inside and I heard more stories.
Those stolen stories fed my soul and filled me understanding. I silently laughed when they all talked about my great-grandpa who was stolen by the gypsies and they didn’t see him for years, but when he came back a few years later, he played the violin beautifully. True story! I listened in on why the aunts were upset with their sister down the road. But they all stayed together, loved each and were there for each other. Physically. I need that. I crave that, but I was born to two people who are happy living inside their own private world, content to see their kids occasionally. I carry it forward; the idea of home. My home. Does this make sense?
What I’m trying to do is make this place the home the kids come back to with their families. That they will feel loved and listened to and accepted. That’s my dream. I’m trying to make it real every day.
I’m feeling like that Frog Prince. He’s wishing for a kiss and a kingdom, and I’m wishing for time to stand still for just a bit, so I can see all my family, scattered across this country, and also see my husband and kids. I want us all to gather and hear the stories and remember. Now that I’m older, my children weave stories from their childhood and adolescence (I feel like a I need a good stiff drink for some of those), and their stories are legend in this house now. We are tethered to one another, reaching across time and space and touching souls and hearts. If we try, we carry home wherever we go.
I did community and college theater when I was in high school and a friend was leaving for NYC and hopefully an acting job, but I stayed home. Why? Because the theater is tough on families, and I wanted a home, and not in NYC. I knew from early on that my dream was to be married and have kids, and it happened! Lucky me. Truly. Who gets to live their dreams? I do. And today I share my dream of all of us being linked to someone, so no one is ever alone.
I wish you are happy where you are at this moment. Content with your lot in life. Not always seeking and pressing on for more, unless it’s more time with people you love. You can make your friends your family; I’ve done that too, and it works. Facing down Thanksgiving can be joyous or dreadful, and I’m hoping you take the time to talk to Uncle Joe, the one whose stories are just a bit off somehow. Or that you grab a friend and get Chinese takeout. Make your place a home. If you feel like me. If not, I kind of envy you.
Wherever you are right now, I wish you all the happiness in your world….
I hope you have a home. A place for you. Where you are loved and encouraged and fed and are warm and safe.
Until next time….