I believe in home, though if you knew my story you might wonder.
I grew up in a family of four in Phoenix, Arizona, and suburban Southern California. Every few years we moved. Sometimes we moved for my dad’s career in aerospace engineering. One time we moved to a drier climate for my brother’s asthma. Several times we moved simply because a better house beckoned. Counting up the moves the other day, I realized I faced new neighborhoods seven times.
Since my marriage in 1978, my wife and I have called nine places home, from Amish Pennsylvania to rural Virginia, from suburban Texas to small-town Indiana. We’ve put down roots only to uproot again–and again. Each move made sense at the time, but more than once we grew weary of the coming and going, the leaving and readjusting.
In 1994, we moved to a town outside of Nashville, where we have lived ever since. We may well retire here.
But as much as I love our two-story Cape Cod, I can’t predict that this will remain our home for good. Who can say for sure that any place will?
The other day my wife reminded me of how over the years we would reassure our reluctant kids when we knew another move was on the horizon. We would ask, “What’s the best part of moving?” Then we’d coax them with an answer: “We all get to move together.” We made our houses home, we tried to say, wherever it was.
I believe in home because it is more than the walls and windows, more than the front entrance or the kitchen’s cooking smells. I believe that home hinges on things both more durable and intangible.
Not long ago, when all of us gathered for a holiday with our children, two of whom are grown and married, we did a craft exercise around our dining room table. We decorated small boxes and then wrote brief notes of appreciation for each person, to be placed in the slots cut out of the cardboard tops. I was touched by what I read. The note my wife, Jill, wrote to me echoed the old Robert Browning poem “Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be,” then went on, “The kids will grow up and go away, but you and me, we’ll stay and stay.”
Times like that remind me how home is not so much a “where” or a “what” as a “who.” Home is the place where you gather with people who care and with the people you care about. In my family, we’ve lived in spacious dwellings and plain quarters, two-story houses and cramped apartments. Wherever it was, there we were, so it was home.