A week ago yesterday, I introduced a blog-hop called “Home to Me.” Over the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers are writing on what/where/who meant home to them. So far seven women (including myself) have published posts on the subject, and let me tell you – they are just beautiful! I am so proud of how this little series is shaping up and I look forward to seeing what its second half holds in store.
Day One: That Time I Rang a Stranger’s Doorbell and Found Family (Part One) by yours truly
The (first part of the) story about how I visited the rural German village from which one of my ancestors had come and ended up befriending a family distantly related to my own:
[O]ff the train, and off the platform I stepped into a pretty little village. I don’t remember seeing any people at all. I looked at my map and the street signs, got my bearings, and took off. I walked those three miles with a sense of wonder and a spring in my step: this was my homeland. (Well, one of them.) My ancestor might have walked these very roads more than two-hundred years before.
The landscape was beautiful – rolling green hills, fields, streams and woods – not unlike the central part of Maryland where my Hessian soldier ancestor ended up. I wondered whether the similarity helped him feel at home in America.
As my walk neared its end, I found myself up on a rise overlooking Oedelsheim. It took my breath away. Hundreds of red roofs sprawled outward (the village wasn’t as small as I’d assumed), a ribbon of blue river wound just beyond it, and gentle farmland and hills surrounded the lot.
I was home. For the first time since Johann Philip had been loaded onto a ship and sent across the Atlantic, one of our family was back in the place from which it had come.
Leslie shares her experience of finding her truest home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Circumstances change and with them, addresses and family make-up – so for Leslie, her city is her forever home:
[T]o me, home has come to mean something other than a house. When I think of home, I think of Knoxville, my hometown, where I have spent all but five years of my life, the place where I was married and where all my babies were born. Whenever I return from a vacation, my heart feels a little lighter as soon as I cross the Tennessee line. The road sign that reads Knoxville – 12 miles always lifts my spirits. And probably the most welcoming sight in the world to me is the Knoxville skyline, with my own parish church at the very front, visible on the interstate as we drive through town.
My roots in this town are deep–my father’s people have lived in this area since the 1700s. Even though my husband has only lived here 25 years, he has put down roots as well. I may not know in what house we will be celebrating the holidays five or ten or twenty years from now, but I know the party will be in Knoxville, my forever home.
Ashley invites readers in with a cozy, warm post that paints a picture of home via a series of small scenes:
Home is comfort. Warm mugs of tea. Soft blankets for cuddling on the couch with the kids. Bowls of soup familiar. Cold winter nights, dark enveloping us early. Dim lights and soft music. Candle flickering, encouraging me to keep bright my own flame.
Home is loud. Saturday family dance parties to Metallica (+orchestra) songs. Three small boys shooting invisible guns and roaring their lion jaws. Paul stomping in to tackle & tickle & destroy. Music streaming through all the speakers: Taylor Swift singing us through pick up time.
Home is humble. Popcorn ceilings and blinds to be replaced—someday. Tiny fingerprints on the windows & a dining table with happy scars from lingering meals with loved ones. Our things made beautiful by our use of them. This is no museum home. This is the real thing. Wooden floors that know our dancing feet. Walls that listen in on our reading voices. A counter that has held a thousand meals.
Home is intimate. Vulnerability lays her head here with us. We are challenged & split open. Spilled milk. Long days. Whiny kids. Disappointing each other & saying sorry & trying again and again to love with our hands pouring coffee and setting the table. This family here–we know, we see each other & ourselves–this is our chance to come to harbor & drop anchor only to be shaken on shore just as we were rocked at sea, to get so close that we can’t help but understand more, know more, to see truth and set pain free.
Rita shares about how her oldest son, who is adopted, found his home in hers:
“Home is where the heart is,” goes the phrase. And it’s true. But for children who are adopted as toddlers, it isn’t as if you can easily explain that a strange, unfamiliar place is home.
When we met our sons as toddlers in China, everything was new and different. We were strangers to them. We spoke a language they had never heard, fed them unusual foods, and expected them to eat and play and sleep in a different place.
For the first two weeks—for each of our adoptions—we lived out of suitcases in hotel rooms…
Our older son stayed in two different hotel rooms in China and a hotel room in Chicago before we finally arrived home together at our house in Baltimore.
He had just turned 2 and, even after only two weeks of hearing English, he understood almost everything we said to him. But there was no way for us to explain to him that this had been our goal the whole time. This place, yet another unfamiliar building full of toys and food and beds, was our final destination.
This house, I wanted to tell him, was not just another set of rooms along the way.
This was special.
This was home…
As the days and weeks went by, our little boy started to trust that this was our special place. And one night after our long daily commute together, I turned our car into the neighborhood and he called out with joy, “Home!”
My eyes filled with tears. Yes, we were home. Home to stay.
Day Five: Home to Me: A German Student Finds Home in a Foreign Land by Svenja, guest blogging at These Walls
Svenja tells about the home she found in the United States during a high school exchange program – a home based not on conventional definitions, but on love:
My American parents treated me as if I was their own daughter. They made no difference. They went to parents’ day at school to see how I was doing, they hugged me, they gave me way too many gifts for Christmas, they planned a surprise vacation to Niagara Falls, they cared for me when I had the flu. But most of all they made me feel loved. And I loved them. I love my American parents, I love my American sisters more than any other people that aren’t part of my ‘real’ family.
According to Merriam-Webster this place in the United Stated can’t really be my home. I am and was not a resident. It isn’t my place of origin. It is a house, yes. But does this fact make it my home? Surely not.
What is it then that makes it home to me? If I look at those three places I mentioned that are home to me, it is obvious that there is one common factor. And that is love. I love my parents unconditionally and they love me in return. I am their child. I love my husband more than anything in the world. It feels like we were made for each other. We can trust each other and rely on each other, we chose each other. Our children are my life. There is no love like a mother’s love for their children.
And then I love my American family. So much. This semester with them changed me, made me another person in a good way. And they made that possible, because they made me feel loved.
Of course Merriam-Webster’s definition isn’t wrong. But one vital aspect is missing and that is love. Just as Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: “Where we love is home. Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
Anna explores the many intangible things that go into making her house her home. “It’s more than that,” she reminds us:
What is home? It’s four walls and a ceiling. It’s the address your mail gets delivered to. It’s a place to hang your hat and lay your head at night.
But it’s more than that.
It’s the personal touches, the iconography, that make it not only a house, but a home. The paint colors, the wall art, the books in your book cases. These things don’t happen overnight; it takes time to make a house a home…
But it’s more than that.
Home is all the memories of things that happened here. This is the place we came home to after our honeymoon. It’s where we brought our children home from the hospital. We’ve seen positive (and negative) pregnancy tests here, we’ve gotten grad school acceptance letters here, we’ve had string quartets rehearsals, baby showers, and New Year’s Eve parties here. This is where we plant our garden every spring and shovel mountains of snow every winter. Home is where life happens.
But it’s more than that…
More than anyone else, home is being with my husband. A relaxing morning drinking coffee together, or staying up way too late watching Netflix would be some of my favorite scenes of home. But even cleaning up the kitchen, or bouncing a fussy baby are more enjoyable when he’s around. Where ever I am, and whatever I’m doing, if I’m with him and our two babies, then I am home.
But even more than that.
Home is the little space allotted to me by God to, for a short time, bring heaven to earth. This is where we live our vocations, sowing peace, ministering love, cultivating life. Home is where we do that, until we are called to our eternal home.
Debbie remembers her grandmother’s home, which was a life-long anchor for her. She mourns its loss along with that of her grandmother:
Life at Grandma’s house was like her love – stable, steady, rock-solid and unchanging.
I was well into my forties when she died, but her death rocked me as if I were a child. Reminders from well-meaning friends of the length and beauty of her life offered me little consolation. I missed her presence in my life: I missed her hugs, I missed her voice, I missed her meatballs and I missed the home that I considered one of the happiest places on earth.
A few months after her death I sat in my Spiritual Director’s office and cried my heart out to him. He patiently listened as I sobbed though my grief. When he finally spoke, he gently suggested that I was looking for my grandmother in all the wrong places. Instead of longing for her presence in the past, in the flesh, in her home – he proposed that I seek her instead where she was to be found: in the Lord, in the Spirit, in heaven. He asked me to pray for the grace to release her in this life, so that I might discover her in a new way. Finally, he gave me this quote, which has sustained and consoled me ever since: “Those who die in grace go no further from us than God, and God is very near.”
I turned over that quote in my mind for many months. I have come to appreciate the truth in its words. I thought that what I missed the most about my Grandmother was the permanence of her home and all that represented to me. What I have discovered is that her home was just a dwelling for her love, and that remains alive, well and exactly as it always was: stable, steady, rock-solid and unchanging.
These posts are part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by yours truly. During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers are sharing about what the concept of “home” means to them. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”
November 13 – Julie @ These Walls
November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb
November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress
November 16 – Rita @ Open Window
November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls
November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow
November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365
November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing
November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels
November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room
November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes
November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life
November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family
November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons