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.

Here Lies Trouble

Having just written about villains, I suppose it’s appropriate to come home to this scene. I mean, it’s just my luck, right? Two dastardly miscreants banding together cannot be a good thing, especially for me. The ne’er-do-well has had it out for me ever since I put a baby lock on the treat cabinet, thereby successfully foiling her ongoing thievery. Should I even try to sleep tonight? Or should I just fortify myself with caffeine so that I can keep a hyped-up eye out for trouble? The sad thing is, I’m not sure who is more nefarious…Penguin or the ne’er-do-well (aka Holly).  For all I know, SHE’s the voice whispering evil-nothings in HIS ear, not the other way round. Say a prayer for me, my friends. I’m going to need all the help I can get.





Under the Big Top…or Not

I don’t think my mother gets nearly enough credit for her superhero powers of persuasion. She’s like Kayla Silverfox (aka Silver Fox) from X-Men (Wolverine – Origins) with a southern accent. I mean, to hear her tell it, she – my mother that is, not Silver Fox — single-handedly kept my father from selling my brother and me to the travelling circus for years…years, people! And apparently my father listened to her (I mean, here I am after all, with no trapeze skills or fire-breathing expertise to speak of, sooo…).  He could’ve made a pretty penny too, or so I was told growing up. A. Pretty. Penny.

Tasteful Memories

Have you ever thought about the powerful connection between smell and memory? One whiff of a food or perfume and, boom, you can be instantly transported back to a specific point in your life. Maybe childhood, maybe a person you knew, maybe a trip abroad, maybe the college dorms.

Well, it’s not just smell that can flood your brain with memories. Taste can do this as well. I realized just how true this is a few days ago when I was at an old-fashioned diner serving a full, honest-to-goodness country breakfast.

As the waitress brought out the plates, piled high with freshly baked biscuits, pancakes, fried eggs, and fried potatoes, I breathed in deeply, and when I dug into the food in front of me, I was transported back to breakfast at my grandmother’s.

As my regular readers know, both of my parents are from West Virginia, and we’d spend summers there – with both sets of grandparents. My mother’s mother, Grandma Jimmie would make a full country breakfast with everything made from scratch: biscuits, bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, beyond amazing gravy.

As I sat there, in this country diner, I felt a wave of nostalgia so intense, and I swear I could see that old kitchen, the coal stove, and envision myself sitting there at their table with my grandfather and the rest of the family waiting impatiently for breakfast to hit the table. And when it finally did? Oh boy, pure heaven!

That breakfast – not just any breakfast, mind you, but my grandmother’s breakfast, is a comfort food from my childhood that stands above all the rest. My own mother’s gravy and biscuits (not to mention her fried potatoes – to die for, yum!) summons up the same memories, and well, it’s more than just food, really. Although, it’s some damn fine food, I must say!  It thrills me to no end when I walk in my mother’s door to those delightful smells, knowing what I’ll be sitting down to when it’s time to eat.

It’s not just fresh-baked biscuits or the smell of bacon that reminds me of West Virginia, though. (And while I say these things remind of West Virginia, and I guess they do, it’s just a place – what they really remind me of are childhood, of growing up, and family. When I say West Virginia, to me, it encompasses so much more than just a place.) The taste of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries remind me of West Virginia too. Raspberry and blackberry bushes grew on the side of the mountain at my mother’s old stomping grounds. Blueberries flourished in the pastures where my father grew up. I had the best of both worlds and believe me, I tried my best to eat myself sick at each place.

Sadly, this is a memory that I’m hard pressed to duplicate these days – store bought berries are just not the same, they lack flavor and what flavor there is, is just…different. But luckily, I’m in a rural area and have options, so sometimes when I see them at local farmers’ markets, I’ll stock up on homegrown grown fruit, and all is right with the world again.

Speaking of fruit, I have yet to find a peach that will rival the fruit from my mother’s peach tree from our own backyard, but I try…oh trust me, I try. But for just an instant, with that initial bite of each one I try, year in and year out, it throws me back to a carefree time when that tree still stood. Why is it we don’t appreciate these things more when we actually have them?

Comfort foods are a wonderful thing. The warmth from the nostalgia and emotions they inspire runs deep and a world of hidden memories is just waiting to be unlocked with a smell or taste.

Hello Karma – Nice to Meet You

The other day my dog, Rufus, took a little spill off the bottom step that goes out my back door. It was such a short distance that I knew right away he was okay. Still, bless his heart, I think he was upset that I didn’t help him up quicker (not from lack of effort on my part, trust me).  Seriously, he fell all of a little bit and even then, he landed on a bag of soft potting soil, you know, the good kind that is mostly air and fluff anyway. I’ll admit, a quickly stifled giggle did escape when I saw him lying there on my gardening supplies gazing up at me with his big, brown eyes. Despite knowing there was just no way he could be hurt, and further knowing that had he wanted to, he could have simply gotten up on his own, I nonetheless dropped my end of the leash that was hooked to his harness and rushed over to placate his pride.

Despite my loving assistance, I guess he was offended by how long it still took me to get there, because he gave me a stricken look me as if to say, “Are you seriously moving that slow? Oh, the betrayal.” I picked him up, brushed him off, snuggled with him, and then he was off doing whatever it is he wanted to do in the yard as if nothing happened. I even gave him an unexpected snack when we went back into the house. No harm, no foul.

Or so I thought.

On Monday, I fell face-first from the TOP step of a 4-step staircase right onto a concrete patio. No rhyme. No reason. No one pushed me. I didn’t trip. My feet just didn’t work. Go figure. I didn’t land on my face, thank the gods that be, but I definitely messed up my hands, wrists, and knees. So yeah. Hello there, karma. Nice to meet you. My bad for not taking Rufus’ misstep a bit more seriously.

I thought the fall was the worst part, but there’s been a ripple effect of delayed pain that’s been even worse. The day after the fall my back decided to get into the game too. Maybe I twisted it funny. Although really, whoever thought it was funny should have their head examined.

To top it all off, guess who was walking around the yard without a care in the world while I was trying (and failing) to get back up on my feet. You guessed it…Rufus. There I am, flailing around on the ground, unable to get up, and after a while, starting to give serious thought to, “Gee, maybe I should just stay outside for today,” and there’s Rufus idly traipsing around, sniffing the grass, and looking for squirrels, leash dragging behind. Not one ounce of concern for his ailing mom, no sir. I’m not going to say I deserved his cold shoulder, but damn, that was a reality check. Thankfully I still had Petra, who stayed glued by my side worried about me and whining. Guess who got a snack that day when we finally made it back in the house!?

There’s always a silver lining, regardless of how bad a situation is. The blessing in all of this was ultimately my laziness. Yes, you read that right. Laziness. You see, all of this happened on Monday. Well, on Sunday, I never finished the laundry, so I was out of shorts. Hey, don’t roll your eyes at me. It was just one of those weekends. So, anyway, even though it was certainly hot enough outside to warrant shorts, I was in fact wearing pants. It was a good thing too or my knees, which took the brunt of the fall, would be scraped to hell in addition to being just swollen. Fun science fact: concrete is hard. Who knew? Another fun fact: old concrete is jagged and crumbly. Even worse.

The lesson I’ve learned here is that laziness is not always a bad thing after all. But not being able to move as fast as The Flash to grab your pet when he missteps to save his pride? That can be a serious problem.