My Forever Home

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You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.
– Maya Angelou 

You can’t go home again isn’t just metaphorical for many people.  The first home I ever knew–the married student housing apartments where I lived with my parents until I was four years old–was demolished not long ago to make way for intramural sports fields.  The last home I lived in was burned nearly to the ground, destroying almost everything we owned.

burned down house

At this time of year, hearts turn toward home, and I am no different–but I find myself longing for places that are no longer available.  I was fortunate to live in the same neighborhood for most of my childhood.  My closest cousins and my maternal grandparents lived there too, and my paternal grandmother lived across town.  Holidays followed a predictable, safe pattern:  Thanksgiving lunch at Mima’s and supper at Granny’s, then Christmas morning at Mima’s and Christmas afternoon at Granny’s.  That was the way it was for 22 years, until divorces and deaths intervened.   Until recently, one childhood house remained:  my mother had been living in her mother’s old house.  When she sold it earlier this year, the last link remaining to that childhood stability was gone.

As the oldest in my family of birth and the first one to have a family of my own, providing a home for the holidays has most often fallen to me, and I hope that my children have fond memories of those days even though the places and patterns have shifted over time.  My favorite adult holiday memories took place in the Victorian house where we lived for eight years.  Despite its somewhat decrepit condition, with its large formal spaces it was ideal for entertaining.  It was the house for which we collected not-quite-antique furniture, piece by piece, the one we decorated with portraits of our children and religious icons.  To me it was my dream house, and when we had to move out for financial reasons I was devastated.  No house has really felt like home to me since.

Victorian House

For the two years after that, we were renting a house that never felt comfortable or safe.  Part of that, I think, was because it was not really ours and we weren’t sure how long we would be able to stay there.  When it burned down, destroying everything, it was the completion of the loss that began with our move.

Since that happened four years ago, I feel I have been trying to regain a sense of home.  We are still renting, but we have plans to buy the house we have lived in since just a few weeks after the fire.  I have started gardening again, putting down literal roots.  But I struggle with decorating, acquiring knickknacks, hanging pictures, really committing.

house and garden

Almost everything in the house–right down to the dishes we eat from and the sheets on the beds–was given to us.  We are surrounded by reminders of the love of the people in our various communities every day.

And that’s part of what made me realize that to me, home has come to mean something other than a house.  When I think of home, I think of Knoxville, my hometown, where I have spent all but five years of my life, the place where I was married and where all my babies were born.  Whenever I return from a vacation, my heart feels a little lighter as soon as I cross the Tennessee line.  The road sign that reads Knoxville – 12 miles always lifts my spirits.  And probably the most welcoming sight in the world to me is the Knoxville skyline, with my own parish church at the very front, visible on the interstate as we drive through town.

IC from CP

My roots in this town are deep–my father’s people have lived in this area since the 1700s.  Even though my husband has only lived here 25 years, he has put down roots as well.  I may not know in what house we will be celebrating the holidays five or ten or twenty years from now, but I know the party will be in Knoxville, my forever home.

Home to Me

This post is part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by Julie Walsh of These Walls. During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers will share about what the concept of “home” means to them. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls

November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb

November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress

November 16 – Rita @ Open Window

November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls

November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow

November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365

November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing

November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels

November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room

November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes

November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life

November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family

November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons


0 thoughts on “My Forever Home

  1. What a beautiful post, Leslie. I’m so glad you’ve had a consistent home in Knoxville, even when the precise address has been inconsistent. Thanks for participating in the blog hop.

  2. thekennedyadventures

    What a beautiful tribute! It’s funny ….. As a child of divorce, feeling at home anywhere is hard for me. I’m envious of my husband, whose mother still lives in his childhood home.

  3. This is a lovely post, and I’m so sad your house got burned down (but what a relief, in a way, that it was a rental that got burned, rather than a place you owned). I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘home’ too, lately, and who/where it is.

  4. Pingback: “Home to Me” Week One Round-up: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 37) | These Walls

  5. This is beautifully written but I’m sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what your have gone through. I can understand not wanting/ or being able to put down roots. the home you are in now is beautiful. I love you message that home is just not where you live but the people and the feelings in your life. Thank you for sharing your story!

  6. I love this Leslie! It’s amazing that your family has been in Knoxville for as long as they have!! I wish I had roots like yours. I’ve moved around a lot and you are so right…home is not only about where you physically reside.

  7. It is always sentimental thinking back on places I have lived in previously. It is not so much the place as it is the memories. I am so sorry that you have had two of your previous homes destroyed, but the memories will always be there. I am glad that you have found a beautiful place you can call home now. ~Jennifer

  8. Beautifully written. So true what you said about getting excited when you’re almost back in your city after traveling. It’s like a breath of relief once you cross that line.

  9. What a beautiful, moving post. I cannot believe that you’ve had to experience losing homes in such a traumatic manner, but your story reminds me what “home” really means- there is such a difference between a house and a home.

  10. I’ve been thinking about what home is really for me too. Have been moving quite a bit since I was a kid. I hope everything is sorted with your new place soon.

  11. Pingback: Hopes and Dreams for 2018 | Life in Every Limb

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