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August 1, 2005

On Memory & Home

You all offered such wonderful responses to my question about place that I have another one: What does "home" mean to you? What memories does it evoke?

2005-07-28 lexshelf5.jpg

I was born and raised in a two story colonial at 72 Old Post Road, Mount Sinai, NY. Each time I visited from college or retreated there on the weekends from Manhattan, I came home. I knew every inch of the house by heart�its smells, creaks, and corners. Then, after nearly thirty years in one place, my parents moved to Vermont. This was a turning point for me; over time, I grew to reassess what I perceived as home.

During our work with our Officer�s Row family, Lex and I found ourselves asking them many questions about "home." As we walked carefully over splintering, sagging, and often missing floorboards, brushing up against swaths of peeling paint, we peppered the family with questions. Do you feel like this is still your home?

Their answers were nearly unanimous. They were a navy family who lived in a different place every three or so years. No, this did not feel like their home. But this did feel like they were coming home�converging as a family to visit a piece of their past, something that they had done some thirty years earlier in that exact same spot. In their case, home meant family, no matter what plot of land they happened to be standing on.

This resonated with me strongly. Coming from a completely different childhood experience, I had always thought of home as a place that housed family. In the coming months, with Lex�s work departure and our pending house move, my realization of home changed. Alone, I found that my house felt empty and the Summer House, even more of a shell. It was only when we saw one another on our monthly visits�either Brooklyn, Miami, or Los Angeles�that I felt like I was home.

Place became far less important than the fact that we were together. Simply, we had become our own small family, and in being with one another, we had come home.

Posted by callalillie at August 1, 2005 1:00 AM | Inquiry , Introspect


I grew up in two homes-my mom's and my dad's. My dad's house was comfortable, to be sure but there were always too many rules and it was too...clean! My mom, no matter where she lived, her house always felt like home. The kitchen was lived-in. There were newspapers in the living room, random books lying around, comfy couches to lounge on, it felt like a house where kids lived and indeed, kids did live there along with a menagerie of animals. My mom lived in three different places and each place always felt the same--like my mom.

Posted by: Nancy at August 1, 2005 10:16 AM

I don�t really have a �home� anymore in any traditional sense. My mother died in my childhood home and it was sold shortly thereafter. Not quick enough in a sense that when she was sick and after she died it disintegrated in half-life speed. My poor father couldn�t take care of it and when my mother was alive�she was the house. It�s a little disconcerting (in more ways than the obvious) because I find that I am extremely emotionally connected to physical experiences and spaces. Since I left that house for good (having moved in and out of it for 8 years of my early adulthood) I rented a place in Brooklyn and now own my own town home in Virginia with my husband. Neither of which feel (or will ever feel) like home�despite the sense of belonging I feel with my husband. I suspect that once we have children the house they are raised in will finally elevate to the status of �home�. In the mean time I feel a little bit �at home� when I�m in the company of certain people. Being an only child with limited �first tier� relatives (I don�t even have first cousins!) that feeling surfaces only with one family member (aside from my father and husband) and otherwise with old friends. These people are tremendously comforting to me�the only people who physically knew me through so many stages of life. Who have some recollection or sense of me in pigtails, shiny-faced, excited about life and as overwhelmingly expressive as I am today. I know some of you read this blog (or write it): Thank you.

Posted by: kar at August 1, 2005 1:26 PM

Home to me isn't necessarily where I grew up. Home to me has always been my bedroom. My parents still live in the house that they moved into 34 years ago. I have moved on my own several times since then and had many a bedroom. However, my bedroom has always been my solitude, my home. My childhood bedroom is now a den for my father, it's his solitude now.

However, there is one particilar bedroom I am drawn to remembering when I think of home. My paternal grandmother lived about 125 miles away and she kept a room there for any guest, but to me, it was my very own room. I used to stay with her for two weeks each summer. I have two younger brothers and this is one of the few things I ever did alone, all on my own, separate from them. My bedroom there was an attic room with slanted ceilings, walls and ceilings covered in wallpaper with small purple flowers all over it. It had hardwood floors, but a small rug protected my feet from the cold floor each morning as I leapt out of bed. In that small room, you were isolated from the rest of the house and a window airconditioner drowned out the noises from the floors below. The room was small and smelled like the wool coats stored in the closet. There was a big tall basket bearing peacock feathers outside the door. Strange thing to remember, but I can still recall touching them each time I entered or left the room.

I feel the same way about my current bedroom as I do about that one. It's upstairs, slightly isolated from the rest of the house, small and private. It's home to me now, just as that room was home to me when I was 12.

Posted by: Ragged Around The Edges at August 1, 2005 2:24 PM

My home is never so far
as the nearest laugh,
the closest touch,
and the softest reminder
that I am truly loved.

I think I just wrote that for you. I don't really care for poetry. It just came out.

Posted by: breana at August 1, 2005 2:29 PM

But what I really meant to tell you, before I accidentally wrote some mediocre verse, was that my home felt toxic to me for years. Even long after I left, the house seemed poisonous. Not really what I thought I should feel when I thought about my home. But when my brother and his family moved in, with the baby toys scattered around and the sound of my mother laughing and the babbling of an infant boy, it suddenly seems like home. Apparently, my home was dead, and needed to be born again.

Posted by: breana at August 1, 2005 2:34 PM

My parents divorced when i was 3, and me and mum moved around quite a bit until my early teens. We then lived in the same house until i left to go to uni, at which time my brother took my room - so it dosent really feel like home.

I would have to say that the two places i mentioned in the memory question (the small spit of land in south devon, and wrapped up in a novel) feel the most like home, because they are where i am most calm and carefree.

Posted by: discostu at August 1, 2005 4:48 PM

Home is wherever you make your memories therefore home is ever changing.

Posted by: pantrygirl at August 1, 2005 5:23 PM

I remember a line from "Nicholas Nickleby" when one character tells Nicholas "you are my home". That always impressed me because for me that's true. The people you love are your home. That's why memories of our childhood home, both happy and sad, are so powerful. That is where we first found love, felt safe and belonged. As we live in other domiciles throughout our lives the ones that truly feel like home are the ones where there is love. Then we are surely blessed.

Posted by: Vickie at August 1, 2005 6:09 PM

Despite a house, life, husband and spawn of my own, I still call my parents house home.

I just feel like I don't have to be change when I walk through my parents front door, all pretense slips away and I can just be me, 100% me.

Posted by: Uma Andersson at August 3, 2005 8:42 AM

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