Can you go home again? What does that even mean to you? Would you want to return if you could?
I think it all starts with how you define home. Is it the physical place where you live, or perhaps a social unit formed by a family living together? Maybe it’s your place or origin. If you said any of those, you are in line with the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
I pose this question because this week, I am going home. As in my place of origin… sort of. My family moved frequently during the first seven years of my life so by the time I started second grade, Viroqua, Wisconsin was my fifth home. That remained my home until I assumed the yoke of adulthood.
Fortunately, I still have family there so for the last 40 years, I’ve made several return trips. Some were one night jaunts, others were two. I can’t remember any visits longer than that. But this time is going to be different. I’ve rented a small cabin in the woods for a week, and I’m contemplating the question – can you go home again?
The house, or physical place I lived in on the western-most edge of our town of 4000 looked like a catcher on a playground baseball team – a bit square and stocky with a strong foundation. It had millipedes in the damp basement and was home to an occasional mouse that scampered in from the adjoining field when the cool weather came. Registers hissed and needed to be drained when the heat come on. HGTV would call it a craftsman with its dormers, beautiful woodwork and wide front porch. Iris flanked the south side and Lilies-of-the Valley always bloomed around my birthday on the north side. A catalpa tree and a buckeye tree provided shade in the front yard, and there were raspberries and asparagus in the backyard garden.
My family unit was my mom and dad, two older sisters and an older brother. I associate the smell of a hot iron with that house because mother frequently ironed in the kitchen and that was comfort. Dad played catch with me in the front yard, and that was pure joy. Barb and Judy danced to the radio after school and I thought they were pretty cool (this was the 60’s after all.) My brother played basketball with an assortment of friends in the driveway, and I loved to run through the sprinkler on hot summer days. We had one full bathroom that we all rotated through as we got ready for school and somehow we all survived. It was a life of contentment.
I lived in Detroit/ Southfield for the longest time of my entire life, yet I never considered that home. On the contrary, when I moved to Lansing in 2001, my first reaction was “this feels like home.” But when I drill deep, it’s nothing like home, regardless of the definitions.
No, I think home is a collective experience – the structure, the people and the experiences you had. I won’t be visiting the old house, my folks are long gone and my siblings are scattered. And the experiences? I doubt that I’ll strap on roller skates and weave figure-eights around the columns in front of the Catholic church like I did as a kid. Or stop by the neighborhood store for penny candy. Or hit tennis balls against the backboard on the courts at school.
So if none of that remains, can you still go home again? If I find an older, more mature version of joy and comfort and contentment, will that provide my answer? I’ll let you know in a week.
Until then, please share your thoughts with me – what is home for you?