What does it mean to return home?
Is home a physical place you go to or live in? Or is home a place you hold in your heart and carry with you?
Can you go home again?
Can you not?
I am in the middle of a visit to my hometown. It was a suprise to my Mom, although my sister and brother knew I was coming. Today we all had lunch together and went shopping. The usual banter was there, the gentle nagging between we three bossy women (although my sister is the bossiest), my brother being mostly quiet and laughing at all of us. My niece, so lovely at 15 and now noticeably private, without the openness of her younger years. She is unfailingly polite but clearly tolerating we older folks as best she can.
Home. Home place. St. Louis is my home place. I have lived away from it longer than I lived in it – more than three times as long. Still, this home place defines me. St. Louis flows through me. I was literally baptized in its river, the mighty Mississippi.
St. Louis is no longer my home. I’ve made my home in Boston although it’s feeling less like home than it used to. Especially now that my children live hither and yon.
I think of home as a place to which I’m connected through blood, years and experiences. The home I made with my children no longer exists. The home my mother made for me and my siblings doesn’t either. She lives in a space that none of us children shared. We are welcome wherever she is, just like my children are welcome where I live but these places are not home to them. It is the way of the world that a lot of us move away, move on. Technology helps bridge the distances but…
Luckily, we are able to create home and community wherever we go. Blessedly my familial ties are still strong even though there is no brick and mortar family home.
A friend of mine recently sold the home that belonged to her family for 90 years. She couldn’t afford the upkeep any more. Having been an owner for many years, she is now a renter – happy to no longer have the responsibilities of maintaining an old New England house. Still, something is lost when your home space is gone. Ties are looser.
Home binds us even if it only exists in memory. The decades-long rituals of our family so tied to my late grandmother’s Wednesday night dinners dissolved after her passing.
I come home. Home has changed. Home has remained the same…at least for now.