Much like love, home is a four-letter word deeply embedded in our culture and way of life. We expend so much time, money, and effort into finding, building, and caring for our home. It doesn’t matter if it is an apartment, condo, city dwelling, or four-bedroom, three-bath split-level dream residence in the suburbs, home is near and dear to us.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the childhood home where I grew up in the Northland. Situated near the end of a dead-end street in a quiet suburb with acres of nearby undeveloped woodland to explore, that home was an ideal place to grow up as a kid. My siblings, friends, and neighbor kids rode our bikes on the street without fear of traffic. We played hide and seek, tag, and other games in each other’s spacious backyards. My sister, brothers, and I raised puppies, climbed trees, and made snow forts. We tended to a garden, finished chores, and earned allowance.
While in college, my childhood home was a safe, familiar place to visit on weekends even as I spread my wings. After college, that same home served as a place to land until I got a job and earned enough to roost elsewhere. As an adult, I’ve lived in too many apartments and dwellings with and without roommates to count in Kansas City and Boston. Yet, my childhood home has always remained the prime essence of what home meant even if I didn’t physically live there.
Home is more than an address where the mail arrives. It is more than a physical place to inhabit and store belongings. Home is not merely a shelter, a place to sleep.
Home is an emotional piggy bank, where memories are stored of childhood, family celebrations, and emergencies. It is a place to raise kids, perhaps run a business, a quiet retreat from the world, and a lively gathering place for family, friends, and neighbors. That activity generates sentiment, a friction of feeling that becomes imbued in walls, rooms, everyday belongings, and family heirlooms. A lifetime of feelings and experiences somehow sum up a sense of home that is intangible but solid enough to carry in the head and heart.
Sometimes home doesn’t inspire, or ceases to generate, warm and fuzzy thoughts, if a family is rendered apart by divorce or tragedy. A home may be destroyed by fire or a tornado. Or a parent may age to a point where they must leave the home they bought and paid off to spend their latter years being cared for in another place. What then? The past is uprooted. Familiarity and security is frayed. This disruption means finding a way home again.
Perhaps that is why “home” is embedded in our way of thinking and operating in so many facets of life. A website has a home. Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez takes his place behind home plate. We live in land of the free, home of the brave. We get our house in order. We grow homesick. Schoolwork not completed in the classroom becomes homework. Home base is that imaginary and quite real safe space not only in childhood games and sporting contests, but it is also a place in life to start and to return.
Lifestyle magazines, retail stores, and television shows are devoted to improving our home. Undoubtedly, we’ll continue to spend time, money, and effort to refine, decorate, and maintain our home no matter where we live. Deep down, we know that home means more than four walls and a roof. After all, the saying goes, “Home is where the heart is.” We carry our hearts within us. Whenever we go to see people and places, perhaps it is important to remember that we bring our hearts along for the journey and that home truly resides within us.