During the past several months I’ve probably given more thought to the idea of “home” than I ever had before.
“The Glennon family was home,” said Uncle Randy at my husband’s memorial service, referring to Jim’s purchase of his very old dream house and land. With an eight-acre pond. Jim, who did not long for many things, always had yearned for a pond. On this unnamed pond, he taught his children and their friends and his nieces and nephews to ice skate.
Jim built benches to drag out onto the ice so children could sit there and he could glide over on his hockey skates, winter jacket flapping open and cheeks as rosy as the toddlers’ were, and pull tightly on their laces and double and triple-knot them. Then Jim would smoothly skate backwards, holding small hands with fingers ensconced in bright hand-knit frog-shaped or dinosaur-patterned mittens.
One winter Jim and I skated over the pond’s thick frozen surface and I looked down and saw fish swimming beneath us, in blue water clouded over by waves of frozen silver.
The pond and surrounding woods attracted animals of all kinds. Jim took his camera down to explore and take pictures of swans, red fox and newborn kits, herons, beavers and their formidable dams.
The sun would rise over Jim’s pond, beyond the broad arc of his bountiful bird feeders. I have never seen so many sunrises as I did during the sleepless nights of his illness, when the fear of missing a waking moment with him–even as he slept–seemed more than I could bear.
The house itself was and always will be “Jim’s house.” The new part was built in 1805. Its thick glass window panes, Indian shutters, original FBUSs (Floor Boards of Unusual Size), ten fireplaces and two brick beehive ovens reminded him of old houses he had worked on with a favorite uncle when Jim was growing up.
As with a Marilynne Robinson character (a widower who remained in the home he had shared with his wife and many children) in Home: “The house embodied for him the general blessedness of his life, which was manifest, really indisputable.” “Such times you had!” the widower told a daughter revisiting the house–“as if the present slight desolation were confetti and candy wrappers left after the passing of some glorious parade.”
At hospital after hospital during the past year I have spoken of Jim’s end-of-life wish to come home to this old house and land of his, and not to die in a hospital. It was the wish our children and friends and family could make come true for him.
We do not live there anymore.
So where is home now? It’s not a house. Jim and I occupied a series of places together, but home is no longer the place I share with him and our children.
Without Jim and as our children grow into independent beings, grief’s siren song of solitude has made me aware that a house alone can never be my home again.
I realize I am lucky to have a place to live. But as Jose Saramago wrote in The Cave, “I don’t doubt that a man can live perfectly well on his own, but I’m convinced that he begins to die as soon as he closes the door of his house behind him.”
Being alone in any place, I am convinced, is not for the perennially grieving.
For me home is not necessarily a place of any kind. When someone speaks the words, “It feels like home,” I feel that he or she is signifying a sense of belonging–of having arrived where one was meant to be, where one feels welcome and a part of something larger than one’s self.
I feel at home back at work.
Wherever we are, I feel at home with my children.
I feel at home with beloved friends.
I feel at home with the band in which all my children have been part of a musical whole.
Wrap up your questions, keep them down, let the water lead us home. . . .
I feel at home by the ocean.
Someday it is possible I may even feel at home in a house Jim never shared with me.
35 thoughts on “(Weekly Photo Challenge: Home) Longing and Belonging”
We moved away within 6 months of my mother dying.I was 8. When we unpacked there were no pictures of her. There were no people in our new community who knew there had been another mother to my sister and me. A year later, I passed by this old home and felt like my mother’s memory was enfolded in the two family. In my dreams I return to this neighborhood and look for her. I never find her . Not once.
That must have been such a trauma for you, losing your mother and the only home and neighborhood you had known in such a short time. I know it was very difficult for our children to leave their dad’s house, but they understood that I couldn’t possibly stay there, especially as they grow older and begin to move out. It was imoprtant to me to stay in the area where the children had been born and started to grow up and all have friends (as do I). Of course, anyone who walks into the new place would immediately know about Jim: pictures of him are everywhere; photographs he took are everywhere; we think and speak about him–and even to him–every day.
Thank you 🙂
I’m not really sure where home is either, in terms of a physical place…I haven’t been through what you have but I’ve been through things..and I don’t feel ‘at home’ at this time, or in this place..
It is very difficult not to feel at home anywhere; I hope you find a place like home very soon.
A very moving and beautifully written interpretation for this weeks Challenge. I wish you all the warmth and comfort of “Home” wherever you find it.
Thank you very much. I can’t resist putting in a plug and saying my home office is now made much more home-like with your lovely calendar photographs, which include a number of places my husband and children and I explored (though clearly I need to make more trips to Dover when the sun’s rising or setting).
I’m so glad you like it Stephanie. This is my first year offering calendars, as you may have guessed by the complete lack of holidays etc. on the calendar. A great big Oops! on my part.
I knew there was more to Dover than meets the eye, it wasn’t until I was commissioned by a local dentist to create photographs for their new office that I really got a chance to explore. I have a feeling there are a lot of places in Dover, several included in the calendar, that long time Dover residents don’t know about. I bet not many are up before the sun either. 🙂
I have moved around so often i was sure I would never find a place that felt like home…especially as I am on my own…but I did…
I am glad you did. I hope you’re surrounded by love there.
Wow Steph ! AJ
And thank you guys for the Herculean efforts to get me out of that place……
Thank you for liking my post and for your visit to my blog.
I was so moved by your post about Jim, the pond and the home. I have to agree that it is the people that make a home. Though the sharing and love created each time together.
I wish you peace.
Thank you , Barb, and best wishes to you.
I am sorry for your loss. Your memory of skating over the frozen world of swimming fish took my breath away.
It was one of those completely unexpected moments which I’ll never forget. Thank you.
Just a beautiful post, thank you Stephanie.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting.
Beautifully written and a lovely tribute.
Thanks so much for this post.
In the last year, after going through change, tragedy and grief, I finally completed my book about “Home” – it’s called A Good Home: A Memoir. Reading this post by you took my right back to some of the ‘spaces’ my heart dwelt in during the period of writing that book. It was such a bittersweet time of loss and love, memory and longing. Writing helped me through it, and I hope that writing is doing/has done the same for you.
Thank you again.
Thank you for coming to the blog and reading. I’ve found it therapeutic both to write and to know someone else is reading, and am glad you’ve found some of the same solace in writing. Best wishes to you.
I’m glad to hear that, Stephanie.
My best to you as you move forward.
p.s. Did you buy another place?
I did, a small place in a real neighborhood, which is gradually beginning to feel like home 🙂