Hitting the reset button at home

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Home is a feeling, a state of being.

My mother is the queen of hospitality. After just a few days in her care, all troubles seem to melt away as the good food, fellowship and rest start to brighten one’s outlook and revive the soul.

Home is a familiar place where dark troubles in the distance, the great unknowns are reduced to a light drizzle on the windows rather than pelting cold that doubles you over in fear and confusion.

My family is a family of wanderers and virtual vagabonds, resistant to a lax existence tied to place. But we have a home, at least a place of congregation where we’ve gathered for many years.

In driving up that familiar, deeply sloped driveway lined with pine needles and oak leaves, I am aware of where I am. But its warmth and welcome are experienced only when occupied by the members of my family.

This week my little sister Aimee is traveling the Middle East for work, and though our dinner conversations are alive with stories and fellowship, it’s not the same without her sitting at her familiar place at the table. My brother-in-law is away as well, and his conviviality is missed.

I’ve often thought about how one creates that sense of home. Especially in light of moving my family around as much as we have these last 16 years. My mother, as I’ve said, does this with an unswerving sense of hospitality and care. My father is the patriarch, the storyteller, the passer on of wisdom. Together, they are the sense of home I most want to emulate.

As places go, our little enclave along Battle Creek Road is not the quaintest old building or the most pristine hillside. The one-and-a-half acres are slightly overgrown, and the tall pines block the view for the most part.

It’s a place created and recreated as our family grew. A hillside manor, of sorts, a place we come to gather where the marks of our former existence make us feel welcome but which do not hold a candle to the necessity of having family present. Without the players, this little world would not matter at all. Except to my brother, of course. His penchant for place is perhaps far more developed than the rest of us. His handy work is seen in the jungle-like back yard, where a fish pond and cold-hardy palm trees soak up the rain showers like sponges.

The old tree fort my dad built for us has been replaced by a new tree fort named the Dawn Treader in honor of our love for C.S. Lewis’ famed children’s books “The Chronicles of Narnia,” but mostly because a tree fort in the imaginative state of being a ship is the most fun a kid can have. I think.

Life in our house happens around the dinner table, where we sit close together eating from myriad dishes like a tasty carousel circling in front of us each night. We spend long hours sitting and talking, going from dinner to late-evening tea and cookies through dozens and dozens of conversations.

It has always been this way. Only today there is more laughter and mirth as the house is filled with grandchildren running and playing as we fellowship.

The remnants of our attempts to farm the land are evident in the old chicken coop falling into disrepair, the old goat fences clinging to rotting posts and a rabbit or two eating grass on the lawn. We are not farmers, though I believe we’re nostalgic for some trace of it in our history.

My mom travels the world with my father, she is savvy about the bigger picture and can converse about almost any topic with ease. But her pioneer roots are evident in the ceiling-high shelves full of canned goods in the garage. I don’t know when she has the time to accomplish these things, but over the last few days we’ve tasted amazing brined pickles and fresh horse radish as well as dried peppers and other examples of her harvest.

There are many reasons to love the comforts of home. Mine are nearly all found in the individuals who make up my family. But we’ve carved out a bit of a comfortable Hobbit hole here on this hillside. When we’re not adventuring around the world, we gather here and fill it with warmth and the smells of good food and conversation that resounds for me like cathedral bells long after I leave.

In moving to a place that is as far away as moving across the sea somewhere, I feel a sense of loneliness already, and it makes me want to grab up every last moment here as if I won’t be back for some time.

Home is the place you come to reset all the settings. As I revive here with all that I love, I realize that this is what I will need to create for the next generation of us. Place is only as good as those who inhabit it.


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