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.
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 grandmother 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.
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.
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.
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.
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