"Start at the beginning. And when you get to the end, stop." - The Mad Hatter, Alice in Wonderland
With homelessness looming in front of me, I have lately been thinking about the concept of home - the word, the place, the emotion. Following in the blogging footsteps of Lane, I'm going to attempt a series of posts, to see if I can sort out my thoughts, and to see where the conversation takes us. We'll see how this goes.
I have a Home key on my computer keyboard. I've never noticed it until just now, just this minute, as I was beginning to gather my thoughts on the word. It's an interesting thought … push this key, go back to where you started. Go back to what's familiar and try again. I pressed the key, curious if such a thing were possible.
For my mom's birthday, I unpacked the remaining boxes in her new house. My parents built a beautiful house on the Coosa River, and, true to their nature, subsequently spend most of their time sitting on the back porch, hooting at the owls and smoking (Dad said recently, "We should have just bought a double-wide and built a good deck, for the time that we spend inside the house"). While enough was unpacked in the initial move-in-push to be able to wash clothes or find a book, there were still boxes lining the hallways, waiting for someone to find a place for the miscellany. So, as part of her gift, I spent a day sorting the innumerable stacks of papers and cleaning out baskets of pennies and paper clips.
Surrounded by loose piles mentally labeled "keep," "throw away," and "other," I found, among other things, little pieces of each family member's personal history. My dad's pictures from the year he spent in Vietnam, when Bob Hope performed for the soldiers on Christmas Day. A bulletin from a classical performance my mom attended with her piano instructor when she was in high school. My learner's permit. My pictures from Chrysalis. My sister's trip to Europe. The trip my parents took to New Orleans in 1998, all of those old homes and older trees nothing but debris now. The year my sister spent in the dorm, one picture after another of smiling girls, strangers to themselves and each other. My grandmother's pictures, inherited after her death, her memories of our lives, pictures I'd never seen, though I remember when they were taken. My grandfather walking my aunt down the aisle on her first wedding day. Box after box of loosely connected memories. As I thumbed through them, most of the pictures had no meaning for me.
My mom wanted me to sort the pictures, give each person their own pile for their own memories, keep my grandmother's things separate from ours. Sort: generation, by individual, by age. As if our lives could be detangled that easily.
I didn't do it. I put them all in one box. My memories stacked on top of Allison's underneath my dad's, my grandmother's sitting on top of us all. I love to think about it now … our history, all mingled and messy, sitting in a box in the upstairs bedroom, labeled "Life before 2005." I love it because this is what a family is … a general sense that we're all in this together. That this is where I've been, and because I went, in a sense, you've been there too. I took you with me when I went, the hope of you or the dread of you or the silly stories of what we did when we were little, and when I came back, you were changed by the way the experience changed me. This fundamental similitude is the cord blood for each of us, the basic material of what it means to have a home, and of what we will need to continue to grow. It's all in one box, and I won't look through that box again for a long time, because I don't need to. I don’t need the pictures, or even the memories. I just need what they mean.
The home key on my computer doesn't work, but it's okay; I don't need it. I don't need it to take me back, because I don't need to start over … I just need to know it's there, need to know where I've been, so that I can have the freedom and confidence to move forward. Everyone needs a home they can leave.