As a child Home was a feeling, more than it was a place. I lived in 15 houses in my first 15 years.
When I was little, Home was where my parents and sisters were. It was where my bed was, where my dolls and stuffed animals were and where I played. It was a bookshelf made out of planks sitting on cinder blocks, filled with Little Golden Books and Dad's huge medical books. A heavy, varnished wood table and six crude Quaker-like chairs where we ate. It was a Raggedy Andy I threw up on and then found in the trash can. The soft light of a lamp burning in the dark early-morning living room and Daddy letting me sit beside him in the chair while he silently prayed, Bible open on his lap. A plastic wading pool that made a large yellow circle on the green backyard grass. Brown couch under which I stuffed a shock of hair I secretly cut off with my little red paper scissors when Mama wasn't looking. It was Mama's fingernails softly tickling my arms and back while Daddy read us before bed. It was horsey-rides and Jesus Loves Me, whispering to my sister in the bed next to mine until she didn't answer any more.
Now Home is people.
It's my sweet Emily with her chocolate brown eyes like my mother's, her perfectly-shaped nose, constantly-moving pretty mouth, refreshing lack of self-awareness, and long legs. It's my Raychie with her huge sweetheart eyes, curly wisps of hair around her face, propensity for cuddling, the way she gasps between phrases and her darling little bob haircut she says looks like mine. It's my Andrew Man with his chubby arms that wrap around my neck and my heart, his baby lisp when he tells me he loves me, the way he knows all the Thomas the Train engines' names and his funny little sense of humor. That's Home.
It's the friends and family that I know love me no matter what is going on in my life, who hold me together when I'm falling apart and who believe in me, even when I don't believe in myself. It's the open doors and open hearts. It's the loving arms, kind eyes and gentle advice. It's the eyes and ears that really SEE me and really HEAR me and the hearts that love me unconditionally, even in my worst moments. That's Home.
It's me, too. Strange to say that, perhaps, but let me explain. I remember in college, after I'd moved out of my parents' house and was living with various roommates, that I felt "homeless." I remember telling my then-boyfriend who I ended up marrying that I felt like I didn't have a home. I slept and ate and cleaned my apartment. But it wasn't Home. I longed for the day when I would get married and have a real Home. I was always looking forward, longing, wanting and wishing, which is what people in their early twenties DO.
But today there is a curious way that I feel at Home....in my own skin. I am 33, separated from my husband, unsure of what the future holds and yet, at Home. I live in an apartment and have my children every other week, but even when they aren't here, I am Home. For the first time in my life Home is not JUST people.
There's a central, base, core....thing....that is Home. I didn't have this at 20. I am not even sure if I had it a year ago. But I do now. It's not that I'm perfectly content with everything in my life or what I see when I look in the mirror. It's not that I don't look forward to things in the future or dream about "better days." There is just an inner calm deep down when I rest in the "knowing place" inside of me. There's a warmth and a rest there. It is so difficult to describe in words but perhaps easier in a picture:
Sometimes I sit down on my bench in the middle of this garden inside of me....a kind of retreat that I can go to if I quiet myself, close my eyes and sit back into myself. I sit down on the bench, I look around and take in everything around me. I feel the breeze on my cheeks and the way it lifts my hair just a bit and pushes it around my neck. I smell the flowers around me and I can hear the sound of a nearby creek, not far away. There are birds chirping happily and a squirrel scampers by my feet, busily on his way somewhere. I look down at my hands on my lap and cross my ankles. I lift my face up and feel the sun on it, eyes closed.
And it's then, when I'm oriented inside of myself there on the bench that I can "pull back" and see myself there on the bench, from behind. I immediately see what I call "the wounded self" sitting there on the bench and I feel a deep love for her. It's as though I'm the mother and she is my child and I almost always touch her hair the way I would my daughter's and pat her head gently and fondly. Usually I sit down beside her on the bench and usually end up gathering her up in my arms. I murmur to her how beautiful, wonderful and loved she is.
It's as this other self, this "Real Self," as I call it, that I can see what is going on with my wounded self. I am able to see clearly the ways she is thinking about things in a way that is causing her pain. Sometimes I just hold her while she cries. The Real Self has wisdom that the wounded self can't see but needs. The Real Self often says exactly what the wounded self most needs to hear and there is often a healing of wounds that occurs when this happens.
That Real Self is Home. It is the place where I see things as they really are, where I know clearly what is important and what is not. It's where love, compassion and empathy, for myself and for others, comes from. It's the place my art comes from. It's the place where my writing comes from.
Like the wardrobe that connects the "real world" to Narnia, it is the passageway into a place that is connected to everyone else in the world. That garden where the bench sits isn't just inside of me; it's inside of everyone. I have my own bench there, but if I get up and walk around I find that everyone else is there, too. Sometimes I encounter their wounded selves and sometimes I encounter their real selves. I don't have a preference; I love their wounded selves just as I do my own wounded self: like a beloved child that, even in her worst moments, is still precious to me. I can see the woundedness for what it is and not confuse it with the real person they are. I know instinctively that we are one family...that we want the same things.
It is there, in that garden that is inside of me, that I feel the things that make someplace...Home. Rest. Comfort. Love. Acceptance. Peace. Connectedness. Happiness.