Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Your Room Is Ready

What is it about “home” that makes it so..... homey?
So wonderfully home-ish?
Perhaps not every single person in the entire world gets those warm curled-up-like-a-cat feelings about home, but percentage-wise, I am sure the number would be very close to 100.
I bet that 99-point-something % of people have a sense of a longing for home.
A nostalgic feeling that comes over you when you imagine visiting the old homestead each Christmas, or during some other holiday time that you get together with those you love.
For me, Christmas is that time.
Since my mother passed away on New Year’s Day, those Christmas visits with my siblings will be much different now, but even so, being rather geographically distanced from my family, I look forward each year to this one time when we will definitely be together, gorging ourselves in food and frolic.
Perhaps (for someone reading this) it is the other way around.
You represent the “place” that your son[s] or daughter[s] will return to -- and you look just as forward to this time as they do!
Home. The gathering place.

If I asked for anecdotes, the comment section of this blogpage would be inundated with all kinds of “home is where the heart is” type of things, culled from literature or whatnot else.
This is because the sense of a longing for home is a universal condition. Described everywhere. Even if a person has not had a positive home experience to draw upon.... the longing for such an experience is probably there, in the heart.

I think it is a beautiful thing to think of home as that sort of a place of refuge. A place where they will always take you in. You may visit but once a year, or maybe even less, but you have a key to the front door!

You’ve never been, and never will be, a stranger here.
That is what home is.

One of the best passages I have ever read, illustrative of this very thing I am trying to describe, comes from a story by Canadian author Frances Itani.
It appears in a story entitled What We Are Capable Of, which can be found in her (2004) book Poached Egg On Toast.
She is such a gem (I attended an Itani “breakfast” in honor of her book) and she is such a brilliant writer.
OK, bear in mind that I do not cite this passage for its amazing complexity, but rather, for its beauty in simplicity, which, in my opinion, is one of the highest compliments we can attach to an author's work.
Trying to improve upon this passage would be like expending energy in an attempt at making the sky a nicer blue.
In it, 22-year-old Sarah is speaking to her mother on the telephone.
Mom (her name is Em) has troubles of her own right now. Troubles that Sarah is oblivious to --

“I want to come home,” says Sarah. “For the summer. I’ll get a job waitressing until I get back to school. There’s a flight to the island in the morning. I’m already packed.”
“Fine. Wonderful. It’s your home too.”
“Thanks, Mom.”
“You want to tell me what happened?”
“Garry walked away,” she says. She’s crying softly. “I ignored the signs. He was seeing someone else for weeks while he was still living with me. You can say I told you so, go ahead.”
“Not on your life,” says Em. “Get yourself on a plane. Your room is ready.”

That’s what home is.
Or that’s what it should be.
Or that’s what we want it to be.

We identify with one or the other, Sarah or Em, and most likely, with both of them, if we’ve lived at all while we’ve been alive.
With Sarah we know, [whether experientially or theoretically] the exhilaration and comfort of hearing such an instantaneous response.
With Em, we know [even if we could not do it ourselves] that there is something both proper and good in offering such an instantaneous response.

In short, what Itani is doing is giving us an ever so brief glimpse at the way it should be.
And why is that?
I mean.... why is that the way it should be?
The answer is as simple as the snippet of prose in which it is hidden.
Because we all have one thing in common. A beating heart.
And the heart is where the home is.



Sam Sattler said...

What is strange (at times) to me, Cip, is how the definition of home changes over the decades. My mother passed away almost 10 years ago and my dad moved to Houston a few years ago, so there's no "homestead" for me and my brother anymore. But, on the other hand, we have established "homesteads" for our own children (and my grandchildren). The "strange" part is the way it became a fact without me really noticing it at the time. All of a sudden, I realized that the transition had occurred - and wondered how I'd missed it. (I hope this makes sense.)

Cipriano said...

Excellent comment.
This is just it, I love this... see, you have gone from having a "homestead" to CREATING one, for other people to call "home".
That's actually quite a beautiful thing.
Not likely to happen for me unless my cat and I.... well... never mind!

Michele said...

After making a life in far away lands for 20 years, I've always known that all roads lead home.

Even if you have to create your own.

After my father passed away suddenly and unexpected, home was no longer home.

And yet it was. Last spring we moved our own family up to the same small town that was our home growing up (for both my husband and I) and established a new home in the old location.

Odd, but it worked.

Anonymous said...

Hometown is sweeter when you stay and work in a different town.

Beth said...

"You can never go home again..." (James Agee)
Of course you can - even if the journey takes place only in your heart.

Jeane said...

Home to me is an undefined smell, that you never realize your home has until you've been away from it for a while. We moved house several months ago, but the new place never felt so homey until the time we came back from a weekend away and opening the door it smelled like home. I don't know how else to describe it.