I recently visited my mom for her 82nd birthday.
She lives in the same house and town where I grew up, but for some reason it didn’t feel like home. Of course, I enjoyed spending time with my mom and visiting with some old friends I hadn’t seen since my high school days, but I didn’t get the feeling I anticipated as the airport shuttle van rolled into my hometown. Why not?
I suppose the perceptible answer is that life evolves and is ever-changing, regardless of how oblivious we are to it. No place and no one stands still, it’s simply impossible, even though there are times when our lives seem to be totally stuck and we’re going nowhere.
During my nearly week long visit I made it a point to revisit people and places that remained and were an integral part of my childhood and adolescent years, and much to my surprise they appeared to be similar to my recollection of them. But upon closer examination they weren’t. Many of the schools were still in place and functioning, but had been renamed for unapparent reasons, and friends from my youthful years had not only changed in appearance but also as a result of the inevitable intervention of life in areas such as marriage and divorce, kids and jobs.
All of this hit me like a huge falling tree. At first I was disillusioned and somewhat sorry that I made the trip; I wanted to see that life as I used to know it still existed, but it didn’t and I moped around for a day while driving around town.
It occurred to me that I could cruise into the country and see the farms where I worked as a kid feeding cattle and horses, hauling hay for a nickel a bale in mid-summer at midnight because it was too hot and humid during the day, and the barn where I was inducted into the high school athletic letterman’s club in a secretive ceremony.
Again, no luck; every one of these places was now either sitting in ruins and abandoned, or had been leveled and replaced with expansive estate homes resting on vast acreages. For example, several miles north of town was legendary country singer Toby Keith’s estate, complete with a small lake for water and jet skiing and stocked for fishing; every couple of miles another example of fame and fortune could be seen in the distance.
Around mid-afternoon on that day it hit me, my home wasn’t what is used to be and I could always go there for a visit, but it would never be home again. I realized that I had to create my own home, a place where I could be comfortable in the here and now because that’s where I, and each of you, now live.
Interesting how our mom has a sense of when something is bothering their child, and my mom recognized it the instant I walked through her front door. As only a mother can say with the succinct, piercing insightfulness of the most experienced psychiatrist, “What’s wrong?” I told her I wanted my home back, I wanted everything to be the same for the short time I was there with her. She told me what I needed to hear, that home is more than a place, some buildings or even the people who live there; it’s about the way time marches on with or without our permission or desire for it to happen. And then we sat silently on her decades old couch as she held me the way she’d done when I was a kid and I’d screwed up, but feared telling my dad about it. Sometimes a mom’s touch can be the most effective healing tool we’ll ever have.
From that time forward I was all right with the way things were at home, because I understood that not only was my mom comfortable with it, but also that my childhood friends living there were feeling OK with it, too. Maybe the most important thing I learned from that visit was that home isn’t a specific place, a time in life when you were young and naïve, but rather it’s a place you create for yourself making you comfortable and relaxed.
I suppose I’m home for now.