Recently my best friend in Wisconsin wrote me an email with the following words, ‘sometimes I have wanted to write to you, isn’t it time you came home?’ Her words gave me pause to think. What does it mean, to ‘come home?’
The idea of home is fundamental to us humans. From the time we were wee children, we knew where and what was home. It was the place we loved, where there were the people we knew the best, who loved us the most, where it was warm, safe and friendly, with good food to eat and all of our belongings gathered there. It was the place we would return to again and again throughout childhood, after school each day, after sleepovers on weekends, after vacations in other locations. For those of us lucky enough to nod and agree with the above scenario, home was our favorite place to be in the world. It embodied all our senses. It looked, smelled, sounded, felt, tasted and simply was a very particular way, like no other place in our experience. My own childhood home changed four times throughout my youth, though the last home proved the longest-lasting; my now 80-something-year-old mother still lives in the home we moved into when I turned ten, nearly forty years ago. Other friends I have known have had the privilege to grow up in, and still return to, the exact same home their entire lives, quite the rarity in the western world these days.
Still there are, as we all know, the intangible aspects to home which have nothing to do with the actual bricks and mortar of the house itself. In my adult life, I admit to the fact that my gypsy wandering soul has led me and my children to move about very often, changing homes and locations every couple or three years. My middle daughter recently created an amazing artwork to try to grapple with what all the wanderings have meant in her own young life. She also informed me that we have moved eighteen times during her seventeen years, when she includes the various homes which both her parents have had (I think the number for her mother was only eleven or so, I guess I have to take her word for it). Sigh. So much for the concept of stability in your children’s lives. Apologizing does no good whatsoever, when you have a wandering gypsy for a mom, as a child you are simply along for the adventure, kids.
Since I have had the ultimate gypsy wandering adventure of moving out of my own country and continent and taking up residence in someone else’s for a while, my perspective on home has shifted even more. Now when I think about home, I can no longer conjure a certain house on a particular street in a particular city. It is rather more like a feeling of comfort, of familiarity, of how people behave, sound and look that describes it. Home is the place where people speak the same language as me, share the same deep loves as me for the earth, for one another, for our commonalities, for all that is homegrown there in that place. It is where I recognize the music and share a lifelong love for it, like the musicians who gather to play Irish and American folk tunes together in the local cafe each week. Or the way people look at you in a friendly way and smile, saying hello, as they pass by on the street. Home means where my friends are, my best friends who love me in spite of and also because of, all that I am. And most of all, home means where my daughters are. When we come together now, no matter in whose house it may be, when we talk and laugh, sing and tell stories to each other, I am home. I can breathe there. I am fully, so very glad to be alive, there. At home.