Time has an insatiable appetite, hording each present moment into its collection known as the past. Except even its ownership of all those moments doesn’t satisfy. No, time must be sure we can’t recollect what was ours. So it chips away at things, induces change, until the circumstances that made our memories are hardly recognizable. This is the conclusion I came to as I drove away from my hometown a few weeks ago. The building blocks of that structure, the “home” of that place, are gradually coming apart. Not crumbling or breaking, nothing so tragic as that. It’s all the ordinary process of time passing, that’s all. Blocks are removed, reshaped, separated from the rest. We all experience it. People move, people die, businesses close, buildings are remodeled, roads are rerouted. Essentially, time happens. What can we do about it?
Maybe the better question is what should we do about it? Because we can cling to the past. We can reconnect with as many old friends and acquaintances as we can find. We can dwell on what we no longer have. We can focus on memories until we are certain all was better then than now. But should we?
As I drove the two hours back to my present home after a weekend at my former home, my babies sleeping in their car seats and the radio giving a soundtrack to my thoughts, I let myself ponder all this. My conclusion: home is a traveling vehicle. It carries us, holds and contains us, and most of all, it moves with us. The old adage of “home is where the heart is” may be one of the most well known cliches of all time but that doesn’t make it false.
We moved to our current home 5 1/2 months ago. I know exactly how long we’ve been here because it is the same as my little daughter’s age, minus a week. We moved in a state of upheaval. Baby Girl spent one single night in our home in Menasha. We returned from the hospital and rested in a rocking chair while every other piece of furniture, article of clothing, and cooking utensil was packed up and hauled out. Then my husband began his new job, sleeping at the worst motel in our new town, and the kids and I had a limbo week at my parents’ house while we waited for our place to be move-in ready. We unloaded all those boxes in Manitowoc and we were home. In the weeks and months that followed I have answered the “does it feel like home yet?” question countless times. I realize now that I’ve been answering incorrectly. I usually talked about what still needs to be done to settle in. I described where we were at in the stages of unpacking and decorating. I spoke of feeling like a stranger at our new church or how I don’t have friends yet, stopping short of admitting just how lonely I am. I mentioned my gradual familiarity of the city’s layout and what stores or restaurants or parks we’ve tried out. None of that answers the question though.
If I answered with clarity I’d say simply, “Yes.” Yes, it feels like home. Just as our duplex in Menasha felt like home, or our apartment in Appleton after the wedding, or the apartment and then house I shared with my sister and friend in the years before being married, it feels like home. Because it is where I live. Not where I used to live or wish I lived or where my extended family or various friends live, but where I live now. It is where my life is happening. Home is a moving object. If I understand what makes a place or situation “home” then I can be sure to never leave it behind or have it taken from me. It will move and change with me, surround me at all times. It will be the scene of my life being lived, and that alone will give it the privilege of being called home.