As I write this, I am on my way home. Not home to where I live with my husband and children, but home to Kentucky where I spent a good part of my growing up. And I’m coming to say goodbye.
In my early years, home meant where I lived. But when my parents divorced, my understanding changed. I soon realized home was not a where, but a who. The people give the place meaning. Home is the people I love and the safe place where we gather, keep our things, and arm ourselves to face the realities of life.
My young home was in Ohio, where I peered from my bedroom window at night, searching the light spilling from streetlamps, hoping to catch a glimpse of Dad returning from work before I fell asleep. Home was my Aunt Inge’s and Uncle Joe’s, a place of safety and reassurance when the home I had known before fell apart.
Home was where Mom taught me to care for our neighbors, especially when it was hard and they needed it most. I remember comforting my friend while the ambulance came and Mom cleaned up the blood that had poured from my friend’s father. We were frightened. But Mom was strong.
Home was where Dad taught me to love the arts, the back alley where my sister and I played, Shakespeare in the park, bluegrass festivals.
Home was a double-wide trailer in Indiana with my step-siblings and step-dad, where we learned how to blend our families and heal after fights.
Home was a grease-stained-shag-rug apartment where my husband and I discovered we didn’t know each other as well as we’d thought. But we worked and grew and loved just like we promised. Now we know no one better.
Home was with Omama and Opapa, especially at Christmas, when my family would gather and sing Silent Night followed by Stille Nacht in honor of our Austrian heritage. I learned the value of family stories that span generations and I longed to know more.
Home was games and laughter with Grandma and Grandpa Sheene. Hugs, homemade pickles, cornbread stuffing balls, service and love rendered, received, learned.
Grandma Sheene is the reason I drove to Kentucky.
We laid my sweet Grandma to rest this week, giving her a tender farewell until we see her again in another home I am yet to find. It is never easy saying goodbye.
And now, I am driving back home—to my husband and precious children who stayed behind for this journey of mine. I’ll tell them stories this weekend. I’ll tell them about my Grandma, how she kept a smile while she fought cancer, how she comforted others, despite her own losses, how she and Grandpa stuck together through 68 years of love and heartache.
And I will hold my children close, savoring these moments while they are still in my home, knowing that my family will always be home to me.
What makes you think of home? Who is home to you?
Photo credit: masyon.deviantart.com