“Well they say it’s where the heart is
and I guess the hardest part is
when your heart is broken
and you’re lost out in the great wide open
looking for a map, finding your way back
to where you belong – oh, and that’s where I belong.”
Coming Home (Country Strong Soundtrack)
I grew up believing that “home” is a place. But, 20 places later, I’ve finally come to realize it’s not. Home is a feeling – actually it’s a collection of feelings. Oh sure, the feelings may be (and often are) tied to a place, but the place is really secondary to the emotions it evokes, the things that make it a home. What are those things? I’m sure they’re different for everyone, but, for me, home is where I feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, where I’m free to express myself without reservation or fear of being judged, where I can seek shelter from the storms that rage inside or around me or simply be quiet and still, where my heart, fully exposed, is safe – where I can share my truth comforted in the knowledge that it will be met with understanding, compassion and empathy, rather than received as an indictment of someone else’s personhood. In short, home is everything the houses of my childhood (8 in all) were not.
I’d like to think I did a better job in my own children’s lives, that I learned something from the dysfunction and disconnectedness of my own childhood, that one day, when they look back on the houses of their growing up, they will associate them with “home” – not because of the creature comforts with which they were accessorized, but because of the memories that were created there, the support and love that were offered there and the “space” that they afforded to grow and express their individuality. In some ways, I’m sure I did. In fact, I know I did. Still, in my ignorance of what a real “home” was supposed to look and feel like, I also know in my heart that I fell as woefully short in my role as a builder of their home as I have in finding my own – and it is a source of considerable sadness for me, because I now see clearly just how important home is.
I take some consolation in knowing that, almost in spite of me, each found “homes” of their own. For my daughter, “home” was a stage, the back of a horse, in front of a camera, immersed in a book (or movie) – engaged in song. That’s where she found peace and the freedom to create, to share her talents, to entertain and challenge herself – a sense of community and belonging. My son was at “home” with the grass beneath his feet, a stick in his hand and a ball of any shape or size. His home was a baseball diamond, a pitcher’s mound and, ultimately, a tee box – any tee box. They were where he came alive, where he was free to explore and display his God-given gifts, where he felt comfortable expressing his emotions, where (often enough) he found joy. I’m glad they had those “places” in their young lives and were able to experience the panoply of emotions they found there. Everyone needs a home.
As for the little boy in me, I suppose he’s still searching – but, for now, a blank sheet of paper and a pen will do.