Tuesday, October 13, 2009
When my youngest child was born, we lived in a cute little barn shaped house on a small plot of land in rural Missouri. Three months before he turned two we drove across the country, lived in a hotel for eight weeks, then settled into a little blue house on a wooded street in Washington D.C. The house was so small that we never even set up his crib. His three older siblings had dibs on the two tiny bedrooms so Sam slept between us, in our queen sized bed, surrounded by stacks of unpacked boxes.
One year later we packed up the van and camped across the county for three weeks, as we moved our household to Utah. After another eight weeks in an extended stay hotel we settled into our new house, nestled in a lovely valley between two mountain ranges. This time Sam got a bedroom. Or at least he got to share a bedroom with big brother and finally have a place to lay out all of his own treasures.
Just before he started kindergarten we moved one more time. Again, all the way across the country, back to the East Coast. The Residence Inn became our home, this time for over 12 weeks, until we finally found and bought the house we live in today.
You’d think all that moving around would be upsetting to a little guy. So many different beds and bedrooms. Never having time to bond with his crib before it was yanked out from under him. Never really being sure where he would lay his head next.
But the surprising thing is, Sam turned out to be a pretty well adjusted kid. Some might even call him easy going and flexible. He rolls with the punches and moves forward. Part of that is personality, I’m sure, but I can’t help but think part of that is the result of the way he lived the first five years of his life.
Sam figured out pretty quickly what some people can take a lifetime to discover. That home is not things. Home isn’t even necessarily a place. Home is a feeling. A feeling that can be found in many ways. For Sam, I believe, the feeling of home was his family.
Every time we packed up his teddy bear and crossed state lines, one thing remained a constant in his life. Dad, Mom, Sister and Two Brothers. We were his balancing force. No matter where the car took us, or what hotel we landed in next, he could always count on his posse to surround him with familiarity. We were the same, day in and day out. Same five faces smiling at him and sharing new adventures with him.
He may never realize that he is lucky enough to have figured this out early in life. When he takes trips as an adult and feels comfortable in a wide variety of situations, he may not tie that back to his preschool years. But I am thankful he was given such a unique babyhood. I think it will serve him well in the years to come.
It is a question I wrestled with extensively after my mom died when I was 25 - what exactly is ‘home’? I was married and had two very small children when I lost my mom, but ultimately I still considered mom and dad’s house my ‘home’. It was where the holidays felt most comfortable and where I would run to tell good news or fill up on nurturing hugs. But then suddenly it was gone.
My mom, as many moms are, was the hub of our wheel, and even dad was a bit lost once she was gone. He changed residences and went on to re-marry, which were all appropriate things to do. But in the process, my home base evaporated. If tragedy were to hit out of the blue, my back up plan (to head home) was gone. My safety net had been severed. I have to admit I wandered a bit, inside, for quite a long time.
Then I slowly came to discover what my eight year old already knows. That home can be lots of things. It can be an encouraging, affectionate mom who is there for you, way past the years you think you need a mother anymore. But home can also be as simple as things that surround you that bring you simple joy. It can be a cozy doily filled den with that one special cat curled up on the sofa for one person. It can be a favorite pillow and ragged old stuffed animal that is thrown across a dorm room bed for another. It can be a smell or a sight or a tactile feeling. For each person it will be different.
But fifteen years after my first home base left the planet I think I have finally found my new place, my new home. For me it slowly moved over to this man I said vows to almost twenty years ago. Day in and day out he is there, making me laugh one minute and making me crazy the next. But always making me thankful we chose each other and we’ve stuck it out through the road bumps. And then there are those four shining faces who make me smile every day. My world is in balance when they are happy and moving forward with their unfolding lives. So now I have figured out at least one of the mysteries of life. Where is home?
For me, wherever I live, wherever I travel, when I am around these sacred five people, I am home.