For as far back as I can remember, I always knew what “Home” was, or at least what it was supposed to be. Home was “Sanctuary”. To me, “Home” always meant safety and peace and sleep and food and, most importantly, love. I often strayed far from Home in my younger years because of school or work or adventure, but always with the bone-deep knowledge and certain comfort that Home was waiting for me.
Then I went through a rather long period where Home stopped being those things.
The first time it happened was after I had joined the military. I had moved into a Dorm, but in my heart, Home was still my house on Hancock St back in Michigan. I’d been away for about a year, but I constantly looked forward to the day I would see and feel all those things that were so familiar to me.
When I finally did come Home on leave, it was supposed to be for two weeks, but it didn’t take me long to realize that many things had changed. I realized within the first few hours that I no longer had a dedicated bed in this place. Also, my father had moved out shortly after I joined the service and now another man, a cruel man, had taken his place. My mother, who had previously always been loving and welcoming and at peace was now quiet and guarded and seemed constantly afraid. In the last year, most of my siblings had moved out, or – more accurately – been driven out by this new man in my old Home. On day 2 or 3, I was unceremoniously informed that the few belongings I had left behind – things that had meant something to me because of their rareness (a bunch of comics, a guitar, and some journals) had all been thrown in the trash months ago because the new man of the house didn’t want them in HIS house.
A planned two week vacation at Home had become a 5-day dose of cold reality as I repeatedly searched for any trace of the familiar and repeatedly found none. This was no longer Home. There was nothing for me here. So I left early and returned back to my base, to my dormitory, and to my new Home.
The next time(s) Home stopped being “Home” was during the intermittent but recurring instances where I dreaded going Home from work because of marital problems. Bone-deep I knew there was no peace there, I could not rest there. My children always provided me with immense joy and I was always eager to see them, but during severe marital events, the dark atmosphere of those events would often suck the joy from those opportunities too. When you repeatedly find yourself reaching for your front door only to be overwhelmed by dread and panic and fear, it’s safe to say that that place is no longer Home.
Safe to say, I eventually found – or, more accurately, made – Home again, and I feel a great deal of joy each and every day because of the confidence of knowing it’s there, waiting to welcome me. But even more important to me is the goal of ensuring that, no matter where my kids – now adults – go, I want them to always know deep in their bones that “Home” – the place they grew up in, felt safe in, and felt unconditional love in – is always available to them. I want it to be a Sanctuary for them to gather their strength, and a place that reminds them that there is always safety here when they need it. The smells and sounds are familiar, the food is satisfying, the love is like a warm blanket, and the jokes are still corny and silly and oddly comforting.
Home doesn’t erase the challenges of life, but it does defuse them a bit while providing a unique source of energy that is only found…