Defining Home

I spent last week floating around Iowa and Nebraska, visiting old friends and old haunts, trying new restaurants and old favorites, and generally have a grand time.

Each place I visited, I dutifully dragged my suitcase inside so that it would be handy to retrieve clothing, my travel book and toiletries. Each place, I borrowed towels, sheets, pillows and blankets. I never cooked (well, except one steakhouse where I picked my own piece of meat and grilled it myself, but I got a lot of instruction from my sister and brother-in-law), I never put things in drawers and I constantly asked where I could find things one doesn’t normally travel with like tissues and outlets to charge my phone.

And yet, with all the packing and unpacking, I felt very much at home wherever I went. At both of my sisters’ apartments, I felt cozy and safe. At my parents’ house, everything was very familiar, even the things that have changed since I last saw their house. At friends’ houses and apartments, I was welcome to partake in their lives in a way I hope I make people feel when they visit me.

I felt like I was home.

And yet, when I walked into my house in Virginia, I felt a different sense of home. I looked around and saw all of my stuff. My coffee mug sat in the sink from the day I left. My (not at ALL stolen) pinch bowl from my college dorm dining hall waited for me to drop my keys into it. My bedspread was tucked neatly over my bed, and my bright yellow towels were folded in my bathroom.

Define “home.”

Google says, “The place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household.”

That’s great, but it certainly implies a singular, physical environment. Then how can I feel at home in multiple places?

This isn’t a new idea, and it’s one I’ve grappled with in the past. During various moves, I’ve felt home-less. But now, my mindset has shifted. Instead of no home, I feel like I have multiple homes.

Wherever my sisters live, I know I am welcome, that I have a permanent place in their households. My parents’ house is home. The city of Lincoln, especially places close to my heart like the Sunken Gardens or the UNL campus, is home. But now Virginia feels a bit like home. My office with my cup of coffee feels homey. My house with all its flaws is home.

  • Home is where the heart is.
  • A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body. –Benjamin Franklin
  • The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. –Maya Angelou
  • I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself. –Maya Angelou
  • Where thou art, that is home. –Emily Dickinson
  • Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. –Oliver Wendell Holmes

But George Bernand Shaw took a less-favorable look at home life:

  • Home life is no more natural to us than a cage is natural to a cockatoo.
  • The great advantage of a hotel is that it is a refuge from home life.

I’m not sure that I really agree with Shaw. After all, home should be a comfort, not a dread. If it is a dread, then are you a welcome member of that household, even if it’s a household of one?

All of these ideas about home make me think about my situation. I am a household of one and a household of dozens. My family is made of blood relatives as well as friends whom I love dearly.

But here’s the kicker: nothing is permanent. Nothing. Life is not permanent. Love is not permanent. Everything changes. Hopefully it grows and evolves over the course of one’s lifetime to something more mature and meaningful than it started, but nothing is permanent.

For the duration of my life, the only thing that is actually permanent is me.

Home is where I am. Therefore, I am my own home. Within myself I should not be judged. I should be myself and honest and happy with who I am. That makes me at home. Home is not a place, but a state of mind in which I am satisfied with myself, my feelings and my surroundings.

What a goal.

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