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A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from one of our grown children. "Mom, if I need to, could I come home?" (It turned out not to be necessary, BTW.) You know what the answer to that had to be. I have heard it said that home is the place where, if you show up, they have to take you in. The interesting thing is that this particular child has never even seen the house we now call home.
Last year, I went to Milwaukee for a conference at Marquette. For some reasons that I have now forgotten, I flew into Chicago and rented a car and drove to Milwaukee. As I was making the long drive, I saw a sign for I-90, and realized that I could just get on that road headed West, and at that moment I felt a pang of homesickness that was visceral. I felt it so deep in my body and my soul - driving through the rain and the dark and wanting so much to go home to California - which of course isn't really home any more.
Home, home. Where is home?
When I was a child, home was my grandmother's house in San Diego. My dad was career Air Force. My childhood memories are categorized first by where we lived, and then by how old I was. I can remember back to age around 3. My first memories were of the old house where we lived in the basement apartment, in Aurora Colorado. We were there less than a year - after my dad was deployed to England my mom, my brother, and I moved back to San Diego and lived with Gram and Popo for 6 months and then moved to England to be with Dad. Three years in England, and when they told us we were going home I knew it had to be to Gram's house - and so it was. I lived with Gram for a year to go to school (long story, ask if you want the details) while my mom, dad, brother and sister moved to Los Angeles. Back with my family after finishing second grade, 3 years in Los Angeles in a house that I had trouble calling home, and then off to France for a year. Back from France and back to Gram's house for me, my mom and 2 brothers, two sisters lived a few miles away, dad was first in Riverside CA then Montgomery AL, and midyear we moved to Montgomery to be together as a family again. Six months in AL, back to Gram's house for the summer, then off to Massachussets for 2 years but with the summer between spent at Gram's house. Then an unexpected early retirement (medical) for my dad, and we moved for the final time of my childhood - back to Los Angeles. But Gram's house was always 'home' to me.
My husband and I married and settled down for a long time in Los Angeles (although we spent the first two years of our marriage in the SF Bay area). I adopted his parent's house as 'home' - my parents divorced about the time that we had returned to Los Angeles. We went there for Thanksgiving, were over there usually Christmas afternoon, even lived there for a few months.
But, as they grew older, they realized that they couldn't keep up the care of an older two story house. And so they moved, and eventually first my mother-in-law, and then my father-in-law both died. But Gram still was home and I had a piece of earth that connected my to my childhood and youth. Even though we had moved first to Oregon and then to New Hampshire, California and specifically Gram's house was still home.
Last year, Gram turned 90. Her health is such that she could no longer stay home, and so her house was sold and she is living close to her only surviving child, my father. Last year, when I was on that road between Chicago and Milwaukee, I realised that I have no longer an earthly place that I connect to as home. I have a house here in New Hampshire, it is a very nice house and I try to keep it a welcoming place, but my heart and my gut don't call it home. It is temporary, transient, and even if we live here the rest of our lives I don't think I will ever feel truly at home. I have no home now, except that I realise that we are all really homeless on this earth. Our true home is in Heaven, with the Lord. Is this detachment?
Well, I don't think I've gotten the real hang of healthy detachment yet. There are a lot of things that I just hang on to. I know that I am a packrat, and part of that is probably so that I can occupy a space and not feel like an intruder. If I can put part of my stuff around, I can create this temporary sense of belonging somewhere. I get fussy and particular about my stuff, too, and I know that it isn't healthy. But I think I am beginning to start to learn to let go, as well.
I hope and I pray that when the time comes for me to ask God "Can I come home?" that He will say, "But of course. Welcome to your eternal home!" When I imagine Hell, I imagine the sense of loneliness and homesickness that I often get, multiplied onehundredfold, and eternal. I think the emotional torment is more real to me than any physical torment could be.

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I wonder about that sense of home that we will feel when we get to Heaven; how wonderfully relaxed and comfortable we will be because it is the place we automatically belong. Somehow that's hard to imagine but, at the same time, I can't wait.

Loved your story.

I can't say what Hell is like, of course, but when I vividly imagine it, it's always as emotional pain and not physical pain.

A touching essay, Alicia. Having moved about 12 times during my own childhood, I too have a difficult time calling any place home. But I believe in Home, and have moved close to the closest place I have to home, some 40 miles from where my grandfather planted his almond orchard 40 years ago, in the hopes of giving my own children a place to call home.

You are a Californian in New Hampshire. It's OK to be from somewhere else, and to call both places home. And wherever you call home, remember that you have made a special place "home" for your children, and that can't be undone.

I moved around quite a bit as a child, was the "new kid" in school 3 years in a row. It dawned on me recently that might be one of my reasons for homeschooling. Not the primary one, of course, but certainly homeschooling gives a continuity to childrens' lives that I didn't have. On another note, I heard Fr. Corapi talk about feeling like an exile here, and that is as it should be, because we are made for heaven. That lonley, homesick feeling we all get at times is just God calling to us, reminding us of our true home.

I was born blocks from where my dad was born, and have never lived more than 10 miles from that center, so I look with wonder at people who can live and make home so far away from family.

But as my family dies, I join you in understanding the feeling of homelessness. Fewer people remember what I remember, fewer people remember me young.

It can be a time of reinvention and fresh start, but mostly it's a detaching from this world.

Thank you for your thoughtful post.

Wonderful post, Alicia. I know that when I dream of home, I dream of the house where I grew up.

That was a very touching post. Thanks.

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This page contains a single entry by alicia published on January 20, 2005 9:49 PM.

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