Home is Where the Heart is

I’ve heard so many people repeat the old adage, “Home is where the heart is.”  Home is also where my Oreo cookies and Doritos are, along with my collection of dust bunnies and dirty laundry.  But what exactly do people mean when they say, “Home is where the heart is?”

I feel a sense of home in places where I’ve never actually lived.  To me, West Virginia is home because of all the fond memories I have of spending summers there with my family.  My grandparents just felt like home. Going off the main road and into the holler, I was home. As strange as it might sound, I also feel a sense of kinship and nostalgia for places I’ve never even visited, like Ireland.  Perhaps more moving (for me at least), I feel a strong sense of calm and peace when my kids are both home for dinner or a holiday celebration. They are home to me. I feel that at that time, my home is heaven on earth; I feel that the world could collapse outside the four walls of my physical house and the three of us would be just fine.

The other day I was out with my daughter, and she started feeling sick.  She wanted to go home.  Now home wasn’t going to be a magical place where she would immediately start feeling better, and she knew that.   She just needed to be in her own space, her own place, and the one spot in the world where she felt comfortable.  It isn’t the brick and mortar home that she needed, it was the feeling that she needed.  At that point, she needed to be on her couch, surrounded by cats, and the things she knows and loves.  This house, or rather, the feeling that it evokes, is our home. My daughter doesn’t much care for our current house.  Neither do I, if I’m being honest. We don’t like the location and we feel we have never truly belonged here.  Even though we are moving in the somewhat near future, this is still our spot on the map, our space, our home.

I remember on 9/11, my now-ex-husband and I were out and about (trying to find a computer repair shop, actually) … I think most adults remember where they were that day.  As the tragedy unfolded, all I wanted was to be home. It just so happened that home was my parents.  Never mind that I was married with kids and a house of my own, I needed to be with my family.  My husband never understood that, and in fact, he even got angry with me for wanting us to be with my folks and not just “depending” on him.  His sense of home never included extended family (mine or his); he always viewed extended family as “outsiders.” On the long list of reasons we are no longer married, this one is certainly in the top five.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. “Home,” not 9/11. What makes a home a home?  Home is where …

  • The pajamas are: If you can roll out of bed without brushing your hair and lay on that couch with the lump in the one cushion and the mystery stain on the armrest without giving a darn, you are home.  Or Wal-Mart, but most likely, home.
  • The laughter is: Your walls hold the keys to your happiness.  Every good thing that has happened is memorialized in the kitchen, the living room, or the bedroom.  You share the gift of laughter freely in the rooms of your home.
  • The tears are: Where were you when the phone rang with some piece of unbelievable, heartbreaking news?  When you hung up the phone, you collapsed on your couch or bed and just cried.  Your home heard your tears and surrounded you with comfort in the face of unbelievable heartache.
  • Your family is: No matter how old you get, you’re never too old to need your family.  Home follows you from house to house.  It’s transient.  Home is where your parents are, your friends are, or your kids are, and yes, where your cats (and all critters!) are.  Home is where you are surrounded by love.
  • Your snacks are: No matter where you roam, there is only one place with the stockpile of snacks that you truly love.  No need to look around to see who is watching you either, just gorge yourself on those jelly beans.
  • Your stuff is: The finest five-star resort has got nothing on your own bed, couch, or desk.  I suppose the view and the fact that people wait on you might be a bit better at a luxury resort … but there is a level of comfort in your own home that cannot be matched by any high-dollar hotel in the world.  No matter how fun your vacation is, when it’s over, you just want to be back home, surrounded by your duct-taped kitchen faucet and the toilet that doesn’t run right unless you jiggle the handle.
  • Your door is opened, or closed: You can be as welcoming as you’d like, or turn off your lights and hide like it’s Halloween and you just gave out your last Snickers bar.  It’s the freedom to be who you like, when you like, that makes home

I’m not sure that “Home is where the heart is” means the same to everyone.  To some, it is the feeling of the actual house, welcoming and warm through its doors.  To others, it’s family and friends, or pets, and a favorite old movie you’ve seen hundreds of times.  It’s a feeling of nostalgia, of calm, of peace, and of knowing that no matter how rotten you feel physically or mentally, there is a space where you can be free to feel however you are feeling.

To me, it’s a combination of all these things that make me feel like I am home now, and I will be home wherever I wander next.