HOME

Recently I was reading some commentary relative to the meaning of the word, “home”, in which the writer was expressing some apprehension regarding a major move from the familiar environment in which she has lived during most of 56 years, and if it would be possible to once again have a “home” in the truest sense of the word. She was asking, “What is it that makes a home—is it place, relationships, combinations of factors, what?” If she and her family were to move, would they still have their “home”?

I look back upon my own journey along life’s trail, and began to wonder if I’m the right someone to ask. You see, most of my adult life I’ve in essence lived alone. Before I married, I had lived in many places sometimes with roommates but more often by myself. To me, home was back where my parents lived. After marriage, at least 22 of our current 44 years were spent with me working away from the town where the children were raised, with me talking to them each weekday evening on the phone or coming home on weekends. The rentals where I spent those “away times” were not home.

As I considered the concept, I began to look at what has, for me, constituted a home. I had already accepted the commentary of Thomas Wolfe in his novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again”, in which he takes writer George Webber back to his Altamont roots (actually Ashville, NC). He realizes that changes over time, not only in Altamont but also in himself, have created a world and perceptions somewhat familiar but at the same time, different. I have personally experienced this as I made periodic visits “back home” to see my parents; over a dozen or so years they had moved four times so that each visit presented a new scenario, colored not only by the change of place but also by the emergent processes of aging working on my folks. Still, there remained a significant core to provide a somewhat comfortable link to the past, and to “Home”. And I also realized that I too had changed, both within my personal self- concept as an individual, as well as a sense of being in the infant stages of becoming a new “family” separate from my birth relationships.

However, if one looks at the concept of Home differently from Wolfe, and views it as something persons carry in their minds, then one truly “can go home again”. In fact, perhaps it could be said that it never left; its components are there to be retrieved when needed, and appear both physically and socially in each location where the family member(s) alight. All of this commentary so far is focused on one of those elements, the major component of Familiarity, not only with the physical setting but also with the network of inter-family relationships. If the new setting is “too different”, then there has to be more effort put forth to bring out that family feeling. But within this component, the most important appears to be the relationships between and among the family members. The cautionary statement to this is to recognize and accept the fact that change takes place individually with the members, and that the quality of the relationships is also changed but not necessarily diminished. In fact, it may actually become an event to be celebrated as members exercise their newly-acquired adulthood and career paths.

Family size is also something that enters into the formula. Large families are successful as long as good communication is maintained as members leave, such as children becoming adults and “leave the nest” to start their own separate lives. Other factors such as distance, health concerns, aging characteristics, and financial resources work their influence. But I know of many families that maintain strong bonds, the nature and depth of those bonds having changed throughout the network. A further concern, however, is that parents often expect the family to remain the same, with them as the “core”. They need to realize that their primary job may in fact have been completed, and that they can view with pride as each of the younger ones pursue their own destinies. And can be grandparents.

I guess I can try to summarize my rambling by saying that the word “home” weaves together a feeling of comfort, security, and familiarity; that when any of these change they must be guided in directions that satisfy the family needs. My wife has a large extended family, scattered from Florida to California and numerous places in between, from its downstate Illinois origins . Yet, every third year one of the initial offspring hosts a reunion, and old relationships are once again dynamic and satisfying.

If a family moves to a new location, there may be too many differences from their previous setting, and things become difficult. When I was a school principal in our small (3000) town, I was continually curious why families that had moved away, returned. It all seemed to be entwined with Familiarity, Security, and Comfort. I find myself savoring those things too, as I’ve remained in this town a number of years after retirement. My wife moved to be near two of our grandchildren; I merely visit several times a year. She had to find new dentists, new doctors, auto mechanics, learn local bureaucratic procedures such as getting a driver’s license, registering to vote, etc. For me, things are much easier particularly since many of the folks who run government and business in this town were once students in the school in which I was a principal for 12 years.( I threaten to go back and change their transcripts if they don’t take care of my concerns). I get good, personalized service; life is relatively easy.

And I connect with my two sons and keep track of our grandchildren’s progress. We recently began using Tango, a free download similar to Skype and Facetime, and which works on both Mac and Android platforms. It was fun yesterday observing our newest grandson handling one of the small books I bought him for his first birthday this week. (He was born on Groundhog Day a year ago but did not see his shadow. He did cry a bit that day, no doubt because we are total Bronco supporters and that was also Super Bowl Sunday.)

I love to travel, but would have a problem moving to many of the places I’ve visited. Perhaps it’s because I’m too comfortable to have to learn lots of new things—languages, cultures, geography. When I was in my 20’s, it was easy to take off for West Africa, and immerse myself for two years in the local setting. Now, in my mid 70’s, I don’t want to take the trouble even though I know I could do it if necessary. It’s work.

The same work that the person, who asked the original question, will have to face if she and her family move. And they will still have their Home.

Always Be Happy   To Our Youth

 

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