Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Familiarity & Breeding Without Contempt

Home. That word encompasses so much more than a mere dwelling place. In fact, it could refer to something other than a residence, but it definitely refers to something greater. Something less tangible. Sometimes people say a place feels "homey" (that's one of my favorite compliments I've received about one of my many abodes!) or makes them feel "at home." As I looked ahead at the December page of my 2010 Susan Branch calendar to record an upcoming appointment, tears welled up in my eyes (see pics from it throughout this post). We were living with my parents at the time, just aching to again form a "home" of our own, where we could re-establish our family rhythm (my own term, but I'm sure you'll understand its meaning) as a foursome.

Funny story--when I was single, my roommate and I invited a family from church into our "home" (then, a make-shift apartment that was the second story of an old farm house--very first-place-esque). Commenting on many "found" pieces of decor, including a hand-painted pie plate made by my ceramics-loving grandmother, one of our guests said they didn't expect such pieces to be on display in our home. Why? Because we were single! As if marrying a man is what brings such touches to our tables!

By contrast, there was a man I dated some who described his taste in decor as consisting of "nothing organic." When I probed as to his meaning, he cited not liking furniture made of wood. Well, if any of you have been to my home, you know that we would have clashed royally! Can metal and glass furniture really feel as cozy and "homey" as wood? Not to me. But then, my long-time home was in the middle of a forest. (Besides, how can one build a nest without wood? Okay, that was a bad one!) That brings me to my main point, though: Home consists of the familiar. A month-and-a-half ago, we moved into this bare-walled apartment, and we have since made it "feel like home." That consists of more than stuff--it's our stuff, our favorite fragrances, our favorite foods in the refrigerator and cupboards, and our style of cooking--for better or for worse.

For worse, you ask? Sure. Can't you think of something distasteful about your home, your home town, or your home state, that makes it feel like home? I loved going to my grandmother's house, and there was a particular mixture of fragrances that accompanied those memories. I once found myself in a dreamy reverie in the storate aisle at Wal-mart, when I realized that one of those smells was that of moth balls! Admittedly not a pleasant odor, I associated it with the familiar and happy place where my now-deceased grandmother made me feel so special and loved!

For some reason, other things say "home" to me as well and just somehow resonate with my homesick heart--autumn and its colors, "Spiced Pumpkin" fragrance from Yankee Candle, the soundtrack to Anne of Green Gables by Hagwood Hardy, Susan Branch and her handwritten books with watercolor illustrations, and Jan Karon's heart-warming Mitford. So does the idyllic landscape of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which my husband calls home. Perhaps someday we'll retire there.

By contrast, this November, we thought God might be leading us to make Tucson, Arizona, our new "home," and I wondered if it could ever truly feel like "home"--its landscape, climate, architecture were all so foreign, resembling nothing familiar. In fact, even if one could argue the superiority of one setting over another, the lack of familiarity could easily tempt a person to choose the "inferior" place, simply because of its greater chances of feeling like home. Thankfully, this was not a choice that was ours to make.

(To be quite honest, even though the "rejection" aspect was hard, we are actually relieved that God did not ask us to move to Tucson. Each day of the week before Christmas, I gave my husband, Jonathan, and our toddler son, Caleb, a small gift to open that symbolized something we're thankful God did not ask us--as yet, anyway--to give up! These included a grow-your-own-grass kit, a board book about dogs, and white tennis balls stacked to look like a snow man!)

Some people, sadly, "feel at home" when they're mistreated and in squalor, which is sad. My responsibility--part of it, anyway--is to form a positive sense of "home" for my own family. Will my sons feel at home when they are spoken to with biting sarcasm or shoved aside when technology or other "distractions" are present? Will they sense familiarity when there is conflict and ill will, or peace and harmony? I may not be able to control how many places they learn to call home, but my attitude and emotional and spiritual stability will go far to help establish their own self-confidence and sense of security. I hope they also remember that everything matched.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nesting, Nesting

I cannot believe it's been over three months since I last posted! I've written often in my mind, but the technology to transfer that directly to a blog has yet to be invented (as far as I know!). I'm on-line mostly one-handed on my iPhone (fun!) these days, usually while nursing. (Sorry if that's tmi!) Today, my baby Joshua is 3 months old.

The three months since he was born have been such a whirlwind, and it's finally dying down, at least for now. (In case you need catching up, after the first month, which is such a blur, we flew to Tucson for the week, where Jonathan candidated at a church. The week he became a 2-month-old cutie pie, we found out we would not be moving to Tucson and moved, instead, into our own apartment here in Madison. We're now moved in, settled, and past the holidays, so we're feeling pretty relaxed, at least for parents of two children under 2!) I have a sneaking suspicion the calm won't last long, so I'm trying to savor every minute. Sometimes savoring includes letting thoughts running around in my head spill out into the world, so here I am again.

Enough about me, on to some big ideas! Here are a few hints: "There's no place like ____," "____ is where you hang your hat," "____ SWEET ____," "____ is where the heart is." I'm sure you've guessed by now.

In the past six months of being in "limbo," not sure where our next residence will be, I have been contemplating that idea of "home." That was easy for me, not a question at all, during my growing-up years: I lived in the same house since I was 5 months old and attended the same church and church-run school from age five through high school graduation. It really "rocked my world" when the church and school changed locations my freshman year of college. When I came "home," the place where I'd spent more time than any other place (other than the house where I grew up) was no longer familiar. Then, the year I graduated college and moved to Michigan, going "home" for the holidays meant going to Wisconsin, not Illinois, for my parents had moved. Thus began my "home displacement" issues (yes, I did just make that up!).

Having grown up in Illinois and attended college in South Carolina before moving to Michigan, I had no idea how many more states would become "home" to me in the years ahead. While in Michigan, I called 5 different places "home," lived with my parents in Wisconsin and sister in Georgia between Michigan and Oregon, where I moved once I got married. From there, we moved to Pennsylvania, where we lived with Jonathan's parents for a few months between ministries. From there, we moved to Gillett, Wisconsin, where we stayed for over 2 1/2 years--a new record for me in adulthood! We really made that place feel like "home," even though we did not own it. It was a parsonage, and the church gave us the liberty to paint and make other updates that really made it feel like "ours."

After living with my parents for my last trimester and first couple months with baby Joshua (ever time we tried to move out, another strong potential would come up for moving out of state!), we moved into a 2-bedroom apartment here in Madison. It does feel like "home" with all our stuff around and all. Crazily, we hope to move sometime in 2011, hopefully to someplace we'll get to call "home" for quite some time.

So what is "home," and why is it so important to us? After 22 years in the same place . . . 11 years, 6 states, and 10 residences later . . . it's a question I've been asking myself. The next few posts will be my meanderings and fumbling answers to those questions, so check back soon!