Just in time for Christmas…
Home. Only four letters, but such a large word. Is it simply where you live? Is it simply where you are from? Many of us have more than one home (or at least we use the word to describe more than one place). Do we use it, out of habit, simply to describe a particular location? Or rather, is home a feeling?
With Christmas only a few days away, many of us will be packing up and shipping out to common, agreeable destinations, meeting up with those we love–and, many of us will describe this as “going home” for the holidays. In 24 years, I have lived in six states and two countries. Each, at some point, earned the title of “home,” and yet, as I pulled up my parents’ long, crackled driveway and swung open the heavy blue door and breathed in the comforting mixed aroma of cinnamon-coffee and hockey equipment, I whispered to myself, “It is so good to be home.”
I was first inspired to write about this word, “home,” while rushing through an Austin Starbucks on my way to work. As I tapped the toe of my boot, waiting (impatiently) for my Soy Chai, a large mural caught my eye; and, as I read the text, I sighed a calming breath:
Vacation days, Fall leaves, Playing hooky,
The first page of a book, Writing about it,
A moment alone, A moment with friends,
A cup, A sip, A sigh.
“Does it taste like berries? Does it taste like chocolate?”
“Does it taste like wood? Does it taste like cinnamon?”
“It tastes like home,” He replies.
What do you do when you are here?
Linger, Sip, Daydream,
Talk, Meet, Sit,
Think, Work, Be.
I have not been able to find the author of these soothing words, but I must compliment him or her on taking me from a busy coffee shop on TX-35 to an oversized chair in Baltimore. I must compliment him or her on melting my tension like the stubby one-armed snowman in early spring. I must compliment him or her on bringing me home with nothing but the sweet, floating melody of letters on a canvas.
This was the moment I realized that, for me, the idea of home is a fluid one. Rather than simply one particular place (as many places have and will again earn the title), home is more about the familiar, comforting feelings of cozy warmth and unconditional love. As the old saying goes, “Home is where the heart is.”
The human heart is another fluid, intangible idea really, but observing and understanding how people love is a spectator sport that many of us watch with unconscious fascination every day. Our ability to not only love, but to communicate that love and spread it around the world is what separates us from the birds and the flowers and the oceans that we share our earth with. We all love love. We all crave it, and we all search for it when it seems to be missing.
Love is a hot meal and a clean room. Love is an inside joke. Love is an embrace that seems too long to the observer, but is never long enough for the involved. Love is lasagna and red wine. Without love, home would be an irrelevant term. Without love, home would be nothing more than a floor and some walls and a roof–we would be no different than the birds or the flowers or the oceans.
So whether you are sitting by the fire with your parents in Maryland this holiday season, or guzzling wine with old friends in Chicago, or reading and re-reading a pile of letters on a bunk in Afghanistan, remember that when you feel the warmth that radiates from real, unconditional love, you have made it home. Merry Christmas!