“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned” Maya Angelou
Even though I left home to go to camp during the summers, starting as early as age 7, I still remember the familial feeling of finally arriving back home after weeks away. My bedroom was always much colder than usual and spotless, devoid of any sign of life—the carpets freshly vacuumed, my bed tightly made and my desk clear of any clutter. However, it didn’t take me more than an hour or two to feel back in my groove, regardless of the abrupt juxtaposition from communal log cabin living to suburban house living.
My house was warm and inviting with an open door policy -literally and figuratively- we never locked any of our doors. My house was always full of personality and bustling with life. Dad’s classical music was always chiming over the speakers, the plant room was always bursting with green under the skylight, delicious smells were always wafting up from the kitchen while Mom cooked and inevitably, there was always someone sleeping over. Whether it was a foreign high school exchange student, an intern from the hospital under Dad’s tutelage, or simply a friend, everyone found a place in our home.
Many life-long friendships were forged in our house at our kitchen table. There were numerous occasions when I’d drive up our driveway with Mom only to find it jammed full of non-descript cars. We’d laugh and try to guess Dad’s mystery guests of the day. With the aid of Dad’s detailed storytelling and never-ending inquisitions and Mom’s excellent food, often times meals at the table became marathon discussion sessions. Regardless of everyone’s background, crossing the threshold of our house became an instant equalizer. When you were in our house, you were just as important as the next person. Whether it was the head of the hospital or a first year medical student or a friend from grade school, everyone had their place and opportunity to speak and relish in the comforts of my home.
To create and maintain a place someone can affectionately call home throughout a lifetime, not just a place that’s simply a shelter from the storm, is not an easy task. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t feel so fortunate to have experienced such a warm, fun and loving home environment. And, I know the feeling was mutual with my parents too. When we were all keeping vigil by Mom’s bedside her final days in the hospital, we tried to make her hospital stay as comfortable and upbeat as possible. But all Mom wanted to do was go home -she kept saying that over and over. She just wanted to be (die) in the comforts of her own room, in her own house, with her loved ones around. She wanted to feel safe at home.
I hold my children’s home life to very high standards and constantly compare my upbringing to theirs. While we don’t live in a house but an apartment, and we don’t have extra rooms to offer up to weary travelers, and I haven’t cooked for the masses let alone my own family (until now), I often wonder if/how I can succeed at recreating the idyllic home life I so cherish.
It’s only been three days since my daughter arrived home from her first sleep away camp experience. I’ve been devoutly listening to her myriad stories and have kept calm when she randomly breaks out in cheers at all hours of the day (girls at all girls camps cheer for everything). While the experience was a positive one, she doesn’t forget to remind me how much she truly missed home. While I listened, I categorized her to be one of those kids who’d always start off camp with a twinge of homesickness, a byproduct of her softer personality. However what she then said to me was much more profound than my quick assumptions.
She told me she was teary throughout her first phone call at camp because at that point, she still hadn’t felt “safe“…like she does at home.
What positive memories from your childhood home life do you try to replicate for your own family?