I took my 19-year old daughter back to college this afternoon, after a laid-back, but very nice Easter. It had, of course, been a holiday made even better by having her with us, and I said so. She replied, to my mild shock, that it’s “always good to be home.”
I say ‘shock,’ because she is after all 19, and very happy at her school. Logically, she is already planning her life as an adult, and I guess I expect her to think of home as old news. Aren’t we all working on achieving escape velocity at that age? Anxious to shake off the dust of the old home town and move on up to some deluxe apartment in the sky…?
But, my daughter, crusty cynic that she tries to be, gave me the lovely gift of defining home as the place where we are together, and that’s more than good enough for now. In one way it may not change, even as she moves out and up. When asked for our home towns, most will think immediately of where we grew up. I’ve lived in Connecticut for 23 years, but Chicago is still what I think of as home. It’s almost genetic.
I don’t know if ‘home is where your heart is,’ as the cliché has it. That seems too simple, too facile, but there is something true in that all the same. My sense of our house being a home increases when we’re all together. My daughter may well find it always good to be home, but for me, it’s more home when she’s here. I have two beautiful children, and for me, home is wherever I am when they’re with me.
I know they will grow up and find lives, interests and families of their own, and yet, wherever I am, they will always represent the warmth and love of home. This was true when they were babies, and will remain true for all time. Home is where your family is, wherever those you love are.
Now, I recognize that I’ll need to forge my own life after they’ve grown, of course. I’m sure I’ll be a sad and pathetic old man, I certainly don’t want to be any more an embarrassment to my children than that. I plan on being active and mentally agile well into my 90s, so I will indeed find things to do–but my connection to my children and to the lives they find, will tether me to a sense of home that I will carry with me always. A conceptually mobile home, if you will.
None of this is earth-shattering or new. Everyone feels the same, I suspect, particularly parents. I certainly hope everyone knows exactly what I’m talking about. Home as a concept, as a construct of our love and connections, should be a common human baseline reality. That sense of home not only gives us our physical grounding (literally), it gives us a philosophical grounding too.
The great tragedy for people losing their homes to foreclosure and disaster is not simply that they are without basic human needs such as shelter and protection. More than the idea of the loss of property, it’s that they become unanchored from their connections to friends and loved ones–from the people and relationships that define them as human and part of a community.
We all need a place where we belong–even if that place is primarily in the hearts and minds of those who care about us. Addressing homelessness has to be about solving both the practical realities of location, but also the deeper requirement of belonging.
Home is the place, it is said, where, when you go there, they have to take you in. Home, I say, is the place where, when you go there, they’re waiting with open arms.
My daughter said only a few words, and casually, but those words truly brought me home. Where we all belong.