Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It's a word that I'm not always comfortable defining. But a friend asked in a round about way that I do so. He's in a bad spot, between homes and places to live and honestly, more than a little confused and angry about the whole situation. I said "I'm home" after my trip last weekend. He said "I don't know what that means." So of course, it's my job to help him out. I mean after all, what's in a definition?

I turned to the place where I turn when I have no answers: the dictionary.
Home (noun): a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.
I can see that. I have moved so many times that this may be the best and most practical description of what home is. By the time I was in junior high, I had attended more than six schools. My family and I lived in several dwellings or domiciles or strange and unusual residences. Our shelters were base housing for the Coast Guard, a fifth wheel, some houses, some rentals, and for a time, a KOA Campground. There was also a poppy-filled field in Eureka, California, where I played and my mother watched "The Price Is Right" on an 11" black and white television with rabbit ears. We never lived in luxury accommodations. Once, my sister Mickie had her bedroom under the staircase. The same type of refuge, of shelter, where I hid with barbie dolls and pretended there was a different world outside the door.

Maybe it's the house itself. I love my grandparent's property. They bought five acres in Dayton, Washington, in something like 1949 or 1950. The gravel driveway, the green siding, the trees and the outbuildings, the garden; they all remind me of what I might call "home". The smell of Grandma's kitchen in wintertime or the front porch that Grandpa built so we could barbecue and have corn feeds~ these could be the things that make home what it is. Or the barn that Grandpa tore down. I still remember the hay and the stalls with worn timbers from generations of cows and calves rubbing on them.

I don't like being away from home much. Last week I was in Colorado for a wedding. It was beautiful; set against the mountains in South Fork, Colorado, in the gentle and loving arms of the Rio Grande, my friends who are best friends and who loved each other through a cross-country move and uprooting everything celebrated their commitment to each other at sunset with catering, an open bar and a bunch of cake. The weather was perfect- 80 during the day and cool in the evenings. Dry, no humidity to speak of. I loved it. Nevermind that my boyfriend was accidentally in a knife fight in a bar. It was cool and nobody got hurt. But I missed my cat and my dog and my own bed. I did NOT miss the humidity and the heat and got progressively more depressed as we drove home through the straight dead zone of the Oklahoma panhandle.

Maybe though, it's not the domicile itself that's the home. Maybe it's the people in it. My mom was continually distracted with her brood of children and my dad was killed when she was pregnant with me. My sisters and I, stair steps two years apart (I'm the youngest and Thorn entered the picture in the 1990's), were play friends. Especially Yvette and I, we stuck together. And to this day, one of my best friends is my sister Patti who is four years older than me. We look alike, talk alike and are often (happily for me) mistaken for each other. We cook together whenever we can; it bonds us. When I want to feel close to someone, to get to know them, to share a particularly deep intimacy with that person, I will cook with them. When I ask you to a meal at my home, show me you love me by cutting potatoes. Wash the dishes. Set the table. Love and home are mixed up in the salad dressing and oysters.

Home is what me make it. It's what you make it and the care and love that you bring to your own table. I have to believe this, that I can make a home. Because for so many of us, we have to start from adulthood to figure out what that word means. Home when you're little is a scary place, a place you hope to leave for foster care but don't want your mom to think you don't love her. Home can be hungry and filled with commodity food. It can be a place of stress and burden where you don't know how or if the lights will stay on for another day if they go out, how to (shame faced) get them turned back on. Home can be the place we learn to drink ourselves out of, the void we fill with countless men; the one place we'd rather not be so we stay out as long as possible at night.

But it doesn't have to be.

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