I laughed when Mitt Romney talked about the trees being the right height. Everybody did. He was home in Michigan feeling nostalgic and happy.
We just returned from a weekend in Maryland. It was my first time since moving to Wilmington. Driving around I saw a few tall Pine trees. They were a pale shadow of the majestic pines of Wilmington. Then I realized that Romney meant the trees were familiar, he was home.
We were visiting the old home town to celebrate Jeremy’s 30th birthday. At the party a former neighbor asked me if the new place felt like home. For some reason I couldn’t answer right away. It was easy for him, “Home is where you open the front door, put down your bag, and there you are.”
I couldn’t help but wonder what does home mean? Everyone knows what home is, it’s instinctual, natural. But it means something different to each of us.
I could still be in transition. We lived in the DC area for nearly 40 years, half that in the Kentlands. Now we’re six hours south in the lovely town of Wilmington. It’s where a church has posted a sign proclaiming “God’s peace to all who pass by here.” No crafty modern day allusions from the bible, just peace.
Maybe home is our new hometown newspaper with a banner headline on the front page declaring, “Snoop Dog to play Azalea festival.” It’s also recording more gunfire this year with that new-fangled shoot-o-meter. Is it time to move back to DC where it’s safer?
Home is memories. The house where I came of age in Houston and the party I had when the rest of my family was on vacation in Arkansas. Fearing our neighbors would catch on, everyone followed my explicit instructions to pull up at the end of the drive way and not to enter the house carrying booze. Only one of my pals ignored my request, brazenly parking in the street and walking up the sidewalk to the front door with a fifth that looked three times bigger than it was. I couldn’t drink enough that night to calm my panic.
Then there is the memory of my father pulling me into the living room and shutting the doors on my first day back home after running away. L. E. never showed much emotion and he was a rigid disciplinarian. That morning he said he had no idea why I felt I had to run away. He apologized, said he loved me and that if I felt that way again, come to him first and he’d take care of it.
Memories can sneak up on you. Enjoying our time with the folks who let us stay with them for the long weekend, I spotted Jesse in one of their photos on the refrigerator. It was from swim team many years ago, when they were still carefree kids. In the foreground were two of their sons, Jesse was in the background wearing his swim googles, looking straight into the camera with that smile, that heart crushing smile. He died four years ago but I miss that beguiling grin every day.
Home is waiting for the next amazing pronouncement from Jeremy, “I won’t be a swindler for the truth,” and “you don’t really get to know your parents until you’re born,”
Home is nowhere near where you live. It’s on top of the Shenandoah Mountains on our first and last camping trip. Easter time what could go wrong. An ice storm hit an hour before sundown. Dinner was dried macaroni and cheese we had to mix with boiling water. Ever boiled water on a barbeque grill? It made it but the mixture almost froze as we tried to stir it in. Sue and I looked at each other and laughed out loud. We couldn’t stop.
We have posted a picture on the wall by the front door of our new home. The friend who put us up last weekend took the shot of our house in the Kentlands during last year’s big snowstorm. Every time we step through the door we are reminded that we will never have snow like that in our new home.
So it is where you set down your bag, where churches wish you peace, with pine trees that are suitably tall and commanding, and trying to imagine Snoop Dog’s set list. Right now, home is in Wilmington, presenting us with new challenges and adventures that we will enjoy and think of fondly when we’re in another home far away.