“Some day you’ll own a home
That’s as big as a house”
(It’s a Big Old Goofy World by John Prine)
I am 56 years old. I was born in Wareham, Massachusetts. By the time I graduated from high school I had gone to at least ten different schools. I have lived in thirteen different states since I was born . . . which means I have spent an average of a little over four years in any one of the states I have lived in. I guess that is to be expected of one who grew up as a military brat and a minister . . . both have a tendency to move around a lot. If a person asks me where my “roots” are, I usually answer them that my “roots” are wherever I happen to be at the moment. I have spent a lifetime being a nomad.
My wife, on the other hand, grew up in the same house and town until she graduated high school. She attended one school. She never moved until she went off to college . . . seventeen miles down the road. She had never lived farther than twenty miles from where she grew up until we moved to southern Indiana to serve our first parish . . . it was ninety miles from her home . . . and, there was heartbreak on her part. It just about killed her when we moved to central Nebraska two years later . . . you would have thought I took her to the ends of the earth. She grew up with roots . . . with a place that she called home. Whenever she is asked where her “roots” are . . . where “home” is . . . she always answers, “Paris, Kentucky.”
I have always been envious of those who have “roots” . . . who have a place to call “home”. I have never had that experience. Wherever I have lived I have always been that stranger passing through. Military families have a tendency to move a lot . . . so do the families of pastors. True, they make a lot of friends and acquaintances . . . but rarely are they remembered as being a part of the “real community”. They have no “roots” . . . eventually they just become footnotes to those who remember them. That has been my life story . . . just a stranger passing through.
I think as an adult I have spent a lot of my life trying to get back “home” . . . trying to get back to those old familiar haunts that bring comfort, safety, and that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you reconnect with what you once remembered. The problem is . . . well, the problem is that none of those places exist for me anymore. Too much time has passed by in those places where I really didn’t spend a whole lot of time to begin with . . . no one remembers me . . . they were just weigh stations in the journey of life. It is not like that for my wife. She goes “home” and people remember her, tell stories, laugh, and catch up . . . there is still family there . . . old friends and classmates. She walks by buildings and she remembers. When you are a stranger passing through all the buildings begin to look the same . . . and, you long. You long for that familiar place . . . a place to call “home”.
Montana was the one place I longed to live since I was a little kid. Its beauty and splendor is captivating and awesome. The population is just right for an introvert . . . about six people or less for every square mile. It was the place I dreamed of . . . a place where I could finally put down my “roots” and call it “home”. But, that was a fallacy. Despite buying a house and living in it for over six years now . . . by the way, it is the first house the wife and I have ever owned . . . this is not the place of “roots” . . . not the where my children will come back to and feel the comfortableness of “home”. They will not find it because this is not their “roots” . . . not their “home”. The homestead will not be a place that will be passed on from generation to generation . . . it will be a place where the wife and I lived for a time.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Montana is the place I have chosen to spend my dying days. I cannot promise that it will be in this exact house because I would move in a heartbeat if I ever find a nice piece of property outside of the town limits. Neither the wife nor I want to move anywhere else . . . though there are times that the wife hints at it . . . we have made a commitment to this beautiful place. In a sense, this is where we have chosen to make a “home” for ourselves. The problem is that the location is never going to be “home” in the same sense it is for a lot of other people.
Despite this deep desire to get back “home” again . . . to establish “roots” in a place . . . I think that I have known for a long, long time that “home” is not in a place, but that it is in the heart. Home is where the heart is . . . as trite as that might sound, it is true.
The comfortableness does not come from the physical surroundings, but from the people that fill that space. After I left home to begin college my parents moved at least three times before I graduated . . . in none of those places did I have a room that was considered mine . . . but, I always felt as if I was going “home”. I was going “home” because of the people who inhabited that space . . . my parents, my siblings . . . the people that I loved. So it has been with all the moves that the wife and I have made over the years . . . the space has been different, but the people have always been the same . . . it is filled with the people we love. It is the same experience that our children talk about now as adults and when they come “home”. It is the familiar faces . . . the teasing and joking around . . . the laughter and the tears . . . it is the embrace that is warm and familiar no matter where it is given . . . it is a “fit” that never goes away.
“Some day you will own a home that is as big as a house.” That is the reality of what I am really shooting for now in my life . . . that I own a “home” that is as big as a house. That “home” is not a place, but in my heart. It is in my heart because that is where I keep those people that make me comfortable . . . that love me . . . that trust me . . . that accept me for who I am. Despite my wisecracking ways, when I say that “home” is where I am, there is a truth to that statement.
The wife and I do not plan on moving any time soon . . . if ever. Home is wherever we are whether we have the traditional “roots” or not. Home is that knowing glance in the eyes of those that I love . . . that acknowledge me . . . that love me . . .
If I keep working at it that “home” I will own won’t be the size of a house . . . it will be a mansion. Home is found in the love that is shared . . . and, we all know, love has no limits. Gee, but it is great to be “home”.