When I left for college, a friend's mother gave me a pair of green socks that showed a lovely house sitting on hill amid trees and blooming flowers. Above the house was written, "Home is where your Mom is." (Note this is a direct quote. I know better than to capitalize "mom" in that statement.) I marveled at the truth of the statement during that time in my life. I was no stranger to moving, and never could quite find a satisfactory answer to the question, "So, where are you from?" Here, stitched into a pair of socks, was the permission I needed to finally call our Western Nebraska town "Home." Yet, lurking in the back of my mind was the understanding that, being a pastor's wife, my mother could be whisked away from our little town and relocated miles from any place I had ever called home. Would that, then, be considered my home? The socks pleaded with me, "Yes! For that's where your Mom is!" A doubt lingered.
Eventually, I married, and found a new definition for home: the place where your husband is. In our four years, we've called four different towns in four different states "home," and we're planning to move again this summer. Should things go our way, we'll be moving closer to home, i.e. family. Our rhythm of packing and unpacking has grown wearisome, and I'm revisiting my old doubts of being able to call our place home when we are so far from our families.
A few weeks ago, I attended my grandmother's burial. My father drove her body from Western Nebraska, where she lived the last two decades of her life, to central Missouri, her home. She was buried next to her husband on the farm they had owned, near the house they built, outside of the town where they were raised. Walking through the town, I could point to the house where my great-grandmother had lived, the cement slab where our family name was carved into the sidewalk, the site of the old cookie factory, where I'm told, my grandfather would pick up bags of the broken cookies to take home. Sharing these memories with my family, I realized a familiar sensation growing in my mind. In many ways, this too, felt like home, though I had never lived there myself. I wondered again where my home was, and if I would ever find it.
I realize I'm not the only person who struggles with this. After all, I know my own family is scattered across the country- Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa. Moving away from home has become the goal of childhood, and those who dream of returning are regarded as unambitious sissies, and therefore deemed worthless. I have to imagine that only a few of us who have followed this model are truly satisfied with their homes; that something inside each of us yearns for a single place where all of our memories meet our futures, where our children will grow and stay, and sit with us late into the evenings to hear our stories and the stories of our ancestors. Unless we start acting on that, I fear many of us will come to the end of our travels, and say with The Vagabond,
Home no more home to me, whither must I wander? Hunger my driver, I go where I must. Cold blows the winter wind over hill and heather; Thick drives the rain, and my roof is in the dust. Loved of wise men was the shade of my roof-tree. The true word of welcome was spoken in the door -- Dear days of old, with the faces in the firelight, Kind folks of old, you come again no more. Home was home then, my dear, full of kindly faces, Home was home then, my dear, happy for the child. Fire and the windows bright glittered on the moorland; Song, tuneful song, built a palace in the wild. Now, when day dawns on the brow of the moorland, Lone stands the house, and the chimney-stone is cold. Lone let it stand, now the friends are all departed, The kind hearts, the true hearts, that loved the place of old. Spring shall come, come again, calling up the moorfowl, Spring shall bring the sun and rain, bring the bees and flowers; Red shall the heather bloom over hill and valley, Soft flow the stream through the even-flowing hours; Fair the day shine as it shone on my childhood -- Fair shine the day on the house with open door; Birds come and cry there and twitter in the chimney -- But I go for ever and come again no more.-Robert Louis Stevenson, "Home No More Home To Me, Wither Must I Wander?"