Ask any homeless person; everyone needs a physical location--if only a tent, mud hut or corner of a room--to call his or her own.
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."---Robert Frost
It's hard to have faith in yourself when those around you don't. That's when a trip or call home will help.
There's No Place Like Home
Dorothy was right. "There's no place like home." Yet for many midlifers home is not as easily defined as it used to be. With one in five of us changing locations every year, with children moving away to begin their own homes, and with few of our parents still living in our childhood homes; we can become as confused about home as that famous drop-in to Oz: "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
I've been thinking about it lately, probably because I too don't live at home now, or not exactly at home. To complete graduate school I stay five days per week at my parents' home, which used to be my home, but that was 30 years ago. I now drive to my home on weekends, where I often call my children, most of whom now live in their own homes, which are located in three different cities, spanning about 1500 miles.
So what makes home home? I have three suggestions.
"Home Is Where the Heart Is," sang Elvis Presley in "Kid Galahad." Yet the king's words notwithstanding, home has to be more than an attitude. We need a place to call home. Ask any homeless person; everyone needs a physical location--if only a tent, mud hut or corner of a room--to call his or her own.
This said; we all know that a home is more than a place. It's also the things in the place that make it homey. Aunt Frances's paintings, the quilted tablecloth the kids made with their Grandmother Ransom's help, Great great grandfather Sam's rocking chair--these are some of the things that let me know that I'm home.
And this is why I've transported some of my things to my home away from home. The familiar books, pictures, and knickknacks on my desk at the university are more than decoration; they help make my office home.
Yet a place and even things still don't make a home, not without people. I once wondered why my father-in-law was always disappointed if our visit to his home didn't conclude with our staying the night. Last weekend my oldest son and his wife made a quick trip home but had to leave in the afternoon to reach another destination by evening. That night as I listened to the lonely silence of a freshly unpeopled room, I wished we had spent more nights at my in-laws. People you love make a home home, which leads to a final point.
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in," wrote Robert Frost. Home is where we belong, where everyone knows our name, where we can be ourselves, where we're wanted and valued and loved.
My children and I have talked about how hard it is to start over in a new place, where we have to prove our worth all over again and where other people's apathy and prejudice can make it hard to fit in.
It's hard to have faith in yourself when those around you don't. That's when a trip or call home will help. Your family hasn't forgotten the dragons you've already slain. They will remind you of the special person you really are. They will believe in you and love you no matter what.
There's no place like home.
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