Is the Heart Where the Home Is?

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Welcome to Wyndspirit Dreams! Not long ago Mom and I made a weekend trip to visit her home. We did not stop at the house she grew up in, but it made me sad to drive past it and see it all abandoned and falling down. I can only imagine how Mom felt. We visited family and friends she grew up with. We drove along roads she has ridden on millions of times. We went to services at the little church she attended. We explored the tumbledown one-room school she walked to day after day. The object of our visit was not a trip down memory lane, but to spend time with family. Still, every person we visited, every place we went, reminded me that, to Mom, this was home.

Some years ago, I attended a family reunion here. Mom and I spent an afternoon wandering around her old house and in the coulees where she played. She told me many stories that afternoon. Some I had heard before and were brought to life by being there. Some I am sure she had forgotten herself till something we saw triggered the memory. When I took a picture of her sitting on a rock she had played on as a child, I could almost see that ghost child standing behind her.

Not long ago I was talking to Mom about how the farm was always “home” for us, even though we had all gone our separate ways. She said, “Not for me!” After forty-odd years, the farm is still not her home. I can understand that. I have lived in several different places that I loved and called home, but none of them have really been home to me. Not the way the farm is home.

What makes a certain place a home? It can’t be the simple fact of growing up there. Dad and his siblings didn’t grow up on the farm; in fact, his family moved all over while he was growing up. However, they all consider the farm to be “home,” even though Dad is the one who owns it. If “home is where the heart is,” then most of us should have our hearts torn apart, because almost everybody has loved ones scattered all over the country. But we don’t. Hearts don’t tear in that way—they simply stretch to encompass as much as they need to. 

I think there are three kinds of homes. The first are simply “residence” homes. Each time you move, you set up a new “residence” home, an address, a spot of dirt branded with your name and hopefully stamped with your personality. Maybe you own, maybe you rent; maybe you love it, maybe you hate it. It still becomes part of your identity for as long as you live there. Then there are the “belonging” homes, where you feel comfortable and just…fit. If you are fortunate, you might have been blessed with more than one of these homes. These are true homes, not just called homes for convenience’s sake, and, though you may move on, they will be in your heart for a lifetime. And, last, there’s the “safety” home, the place you have always felt most secure.

I felt very secure growing up on the farm, even during the roughest times. I knew we owned our home free and clear, so we would never lose it. By the time I was old enough to understand about debt, Mom and Dad had drilled into me by example that it was something you stayed out of. I had endless nightmares about the house burning down, but I knew no banker or landlord would ever come knocking on our door. We had cattle and a garden, so I knew we’d always have something to eat. Even when I grew old enough to understand—and loathe—the ups and downs of the farm economy, I knew there would always be food on the table if we were willing to work for it, even if it was only hamburger and boiled potatoes—which it frequently was. And then there was the freedom. The freedom to roam for miles and miles on our own land. The freedom to be my most authentic, real self, with no concern for what others might think.

I think a “safety” home is a blend of familiarity and memories playing off each other. We are the sum total of everything we have ever been, and I think we need to be reminded now and then of what we have been to help us understand and deal with what we are now. Familiar things bring back memories of what we have been, and memories keep these things familiar. We need this, because what we were is part of what we are.

But all of this is logic, reasoning. It still doesn’t explain that inner mystery, that bond, that connection we have with a certain place. It doesn’t explain the quickening in my spirit as I turn down a well-remembered driveway. And it doesn’t explain the ache I get in my heart at the thought of my home abandoned and falling to pieces the way Mom’s has. I guess, when it comes right down to it, you can love a place just for itself.

Let me know what you think!
Wyndspirit Dreams