Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about home. The other night I was driving “home” to a house I rent in a town where I was a stranger a year ago. The road to and from work has already become familiar enough that I can mindlessly drive it, but put me on a road just a few blocks away, and I would be in completely unfamiliar territory. In fact, most of the city is still a mystery. How can I call that home? Do I have a home?

According to Mirriam-Webster, home is a place where one lives. Simple. If that’s the case, then yes, my home is the rented house in a new town. However, the word ‘home’ is filled with so much more meaning in our culture than that simple definition. Sanctuary, refuge, a safe place where you can be yourself – that is all tied into the word ‘home.’

Then there’s “home is where the heart is.” That’s a lovely sentiment, but without my own family or spouse, it still leaves me drifting. It leads right back to asking myself, “What is home, and do I have one?”

Is home the farm where I grew up? That one was easy. No. In fact, I felt so out of place in my community, school, and even family that from the moment I knew I could go somewhere else, I started dreaming of my escape.

At 17 I made that escape to college, and never looked back. I felt I belonged in my college community, and reveled in the friendships I made there that have lasted a lifetime. It’s good to visit those friends, and there is a sense of coming home to people who know me, but it’s still not home.

Perhaps my home is Los Angeles, where I lived longer than any other place. However, in a city of millions, I was no one’s priority, and when I needed help I was usually on my own. Life there felt like a 25 year walk on a tightrope without a net. There was no place of refuge – no soft place to land. When I think of going home, LA definitely does not come to mind.

Which brings me here. Is Missouri home? For the moment it is. It’s where my bed is. It’s where my stuff is. I feel accepted and supported. If I were to fall, there are people who would try to catch me. It’s where my rented house actually provides me security and a safe place to be. But is it home? I’m not sure.

Looking back over my life, I realize that my early experiences of not fitting in have sent me on a lifelong quest to find home. Perhaps it is one of those journeys where I will realize one day that I was always home. The only thing I know for sure is that If I were Dorothy, and clicked my heels while repeating, “there’s no place like home” I have no idea where I would wake up. For now, Missouri will do, and with time perhaps it will become home.

Where is your home? What makes it home to you? What wisdom can you share about finding home?

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  • Cheryl Finney

    When I’m asked where I’m from, my answer depends on the context. If they want to know where I lived as a child, I answer that I can do an entire verse of “I’ve Been Everywhere” as “I’ve Lived Everywhere”, and they are all small South Dakota towns. Sometimes, I name the town where I graduated from high school. Like you, I couldn’t wait to get away from the house in which my parents lived, in yet another little town. I insisted on doing summer school in order to avoid that town where I knew only a few people (actually mainly to avoid some family members). I changed my voter registration to the college town and involved myself in the community. Once, while visiting the area where my father grew up, I expressed my desire to have the family home site, explaining that I have no “home”. He became extremely angry, saying that I DID have a home. I never had a chance to explain my meaning. If they want to know where I’ve lived longer than anywhere, the answer is metro Denver. I’ve been back in Sioux Falls almost as long as I spent in Colorado. Is this home? The house is mine, mortgage and all. For most cases, I guess I will stick with Mirriam-Webster’s definition. It’s easier than explaining.

    • Lynette Nelson

      Since posting this I’ve talked with several people who have similar feelings about home. May we all eventually find our sense of home. Thanks for posting.

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