Thursday, July 17, 2008

Getting schooled about home

In the cathedrals of New York and Rome
There is a feeling that you should just go home
And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is

--"Cathedrals," Jump Little Children

Where do I put my welcome mat?

It used to be at my parents' front door. Then it sat in upstate New York under 10 feet of snow, next to a bar entrance in Pittsburgh, and now before a brick townhouse in NoVa.

Does this make home where my welcome mat is? It seems too easy to move, too transient, too ... flat. And it doesn't explain my comfort in church, or at the library, or in a good friend's house. I don't bring my welcome mat there. Yet I'm equally at ease.

There's always "home is where the heart is," I suppose. But that puts my home in a well-written book, or at the ocean, or with the relatives in Italy. And last time I checked, no one is sending my mail to my relatives in Italy (though let's not discount the mysteries of the Italian postal system.)

Home, then, must be bigger than a mat and wider than a heart. Tall order. This rules out bungalows, cottages, colonials, and McMansions. It does away with townships, boroughs, cities, and states. It even trumps countries, planets, and the whole schmeer of the universe.

In fact, forget coordinates altogether. Home is deeper than that. It's protection balanced by risk. It results from circumstance or decision, followed by adaptation. It's joy and contentment. It fits.

In a right world, home is with me and in me -- with or without the welcome mat.


  1. This reminded me of something I wrote when coming home from studying abroad:

    "Thought I would share this quote I read: “If you move around all your life, you can’t find where you come from on a map. All the places where you lived are just that: places. You don’t come from any of them; you come from a series of events, and those are mapped in memory. Contingent, precarious events, without the counterpane of place to muffle the knowledge of how unlikely we are.”

    At first I thought, yes! That is exactly how I feel. In mulling on it further though, I believe this to be incorrect. Places are almost never just places. I can’t think of Sydney, Florence, Atlanta, Charlottesville, and now even New York City and say that these are just places. They are much more than that. Granted, without the events in them the places would mean nothing. But the place is still essential to the event as well. Going to the movies in Florence is unlike going to the movies anywhere else. Sitting on a beach in Australia can barely compare to other beaches I have visited. Simply driving around in Atlanta or Charlottesville, yields more views of greenery that I think you can find most places. Spending one night trying to sleep in New York is certainly more of a challenge than that same effort in most other cities I know. The place and event are delicately linked, and clearly without the people who make those two things exciting and burn in your memory, neither would be important at all. One excellent point of this quote though is that you can’t find where you come from on a map. Because we come from each other."

  2. Hear, hear!! Beautiful thought. Thanks Sus :)