Shades of the Past

The news of my junior-high-turned-life-long-friend’s father’s death shocked me. It shook me for its suddeness and the blow it served to my friend, his brother, and mother. It also pulled me back into a fold I hadn’t been part of for quite some time.

This family gave me first, the friendship of its younger son, then older brother, deepened by the quasi-adopted status of daughter in a family of boys. Through a childhood bond of the older brother and the wheeling and dealing of the younger, it gave me my husband. When our band of merry men wasn’t tearing into the cul-de-sac in front of their house, we were storming their vacation cottage in the mountains. We ate, drank mai tais the old way, and managed to meet up around the country and world as life took us on its various roads.

But year spooled into year, and suddenly it had been over a decade since I’d visited their home. I didn’t think it would affect me until our car slid into line with the others at the curb, much like it did when we’d jockey for position years ago. Stepping over the threshold from the breezeway to the kitchen, a wave of emotion rolled over me. The same wallpaper, the same linoleum, the same smell. The books, the airshow posters, the tea bags and coffee press. The fresh air billowing in the bathroom window overlooking the backyard. The same futon where three of us had crammed to watch German subtitled movies for English class.

We gathered around the table on the patio and drank the sweet, slushy lemonade of our childhood with a splash of rum from Pappy’s reserve. I don’t think I’d realized how much a place can take on a life of its own. But really, what this place gave me is a better appreciation for the people and times that made it so special.

Andrew Apuya

Andrew Apuya

What is Home?

What is home?

A place to eat? Sleep? Bathe? Shelter from the elements?

An outward manifestation of our personal aesthetic, pleasing to the senses, and exuding a sense of comfort?

A gathering place for those we hold dear to us, to be in each other’s presence and enjoy each other’s company?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

But what is it, really?

With the three-semester exception of living in a dorm room Monday-Friday at a college twenty minutes away, I lived in my childhood home until I returned from my honeymoon. Deliriously happy in my marriage, my nights were fraught with depressive tossing and turning as I tried to reconcile this new dwelling with my pre-existing ideas of home. And over the last eleven years, there have been times when I awaken from a very deep or sick-induced slumber and forget for a moment that when I open my eyes I will not see the pale lilac wall of my youth.

Nevertheless, this ‘new’ home has truly become home. My husband and I have built the foundation of our family here. From dinners on the living room floor to detritus thrown from a high chair. From office to nursery to toddler’s room to nursery again. From relaxing soaks in the tub to all-out splash fests. From a quiet haven to a bustling hub of activity.

And now the question that begs to be asked: Have we become too much for this home? Has our family outgrown this lovely little space? How much is enough? This home serves the basic functions of a family (i.e. eat, sleep, bathe, shelter), but we’re busting at the seams. It’s become a battle of space to breathe vs. burgeoning piles of crap. How much can you edit before you affect the quality of life? How much do we really need?

For the last several years, I’ve had a quote tucked into the glass door of the hutch in my dining room, always visible to remind me to contemplate it from time to time.

“It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards ‘having’ rather than ‘being’, and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyments as an end in itself. It is therefore necessary to create life-styles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments.”
– John Paul II

Will a new, more streamlined, spacious place help us to foster connections and communion with others (including the immediate members of our family)? Does the desire for a new home come from a desire for beauty or the want for bigger and better? Am I trying to make life easier or keep up the proverbial Joneses?

I’m hoping the very fact that I’m questioning means I’m making conscious, valid decisions. Perhaps I’m having misgivings because the idea of redefining home again is so scary to me. My thoughts swirling and anxieties mounting, my husband offered me some sage advice I almost missed. The worry in and of itself was almost comforting, because not knowing where we were going or what we should do, that endless loop of thoughts felt almost productive in the face of uncertainty. But I forced myself to look at him when he said the following words, ones I knew I couldn’t miss, “Home is wherever you and I and the kids are.”

And isn’t that the very best answer to so many questions.

 

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