A Home by the River

Google says home is:

  • The place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household.
  • Of or relating to the place where one lives: “your home address”.
  • To the place where one lives: “what time did he get home last night?”.
  • (of an animal) Return by instinct to its territory after leaving it: “geese homing to their summer nesting grounds”.

 When I think about my life, and the places I have been, seen, lived, only one place swells my heart with memories.  It’s one of those places where you can see your memories come to life no matter how many changes have happened over the years.  It’s the first place that popped into my mind.

When I think of home I see my river.

We spent every weekend, spring through fall, camping when I was little.  I’m talking we brought two tents and cooler, risked our lives down some clearing in the woods, better have four-wheel drive and a riffle type of camping. 

I remember every routine, every moment as if it happened five minutes ago.  Stopping for hotdogs at a store that bore my father’s first name, singing to Elton John, Billy Joel and Fleetwood Mac, ice cream at the bait shop.  I remember the first two miles of our journey down the path that we made ourselves, next to an old rickety fence of rotted wood and rusted barbed-wire, that enclosed a field of wildflowers.  There’s the big sink hole, that even in a drought was filled with thick black mud, we got stuck every time, and my mother had her yellow station wagon fitted with a wench just for that reason. 

And there, like a best friend, it always was, our secret little perch, on top of a cliff, next to the river. 

The river always had a mind of its own, an electric company built a dam at the end to harness its power, and I can still hear the distant alarms they’d sound when they were opening the gates.  The river would swell and engulf the shores, but never our special spot.  In one spot we rebuilt the shore, made our own little wading pool out of boulders, this place was ours. 

It’s all my sacred space, my home.  It’s where I cried alone in the safety of old white oaks.  It’s where I learned to fish, to hunt, to be still and to let go.  It’s a place of falling to sleep with wolves howling in the distance.  It’s where my family came together, no matter what.  Where I had my first drink.  It’s where I explored the world and my mind.  It’s where I was always me, and no secrets ever hid.

That river, those woods were my safety.

And then one day, while I was in the midst of labor with our son, a news alert flooded my hospital television.  The Dam had broken.  Broke as in exploded under pressure, releasing everything it had held inside.  The town was destroyed, the river out of control.  My safe place, gone.

Six months later I bribed my sister to get me back home.  My heart fluttered as I saw a worker sweeping the parking lot of my father’s name sake.  My bait store, had boarded up windows, but a tot sitting outside with his mom, ice cream in hand.  My field of flowers was well a bloom, the fence still standing guard.  But my sink hole was gone, I started to panic inside. 

And there was our clearing.  Trashed with litter and debris, but still there.  Ten years had passed since I walked that ground.  Ten years and a flood of mass proportions, yet I could still see it all.  I walked quietly, eyes half closed, retracing the steps I had walked a million times. 

There was a home on the hill where we used to shoot balloons, my wading pool barely recognizable, the thorn bushes I had torn my legs up on every dang time, the sounds, the smells, so different but exactly the same.

This was my home.  This forever will be my home.  No matter what changes it takes, no matter how far apart we grow.

My heart is forever at home with my family, wherever that may be, but a large part of my heart my soul will forever be waiting for me down by the river and the old oak trees.

What do you see when you think of home?

 

(Consider this my NaBloPoMo entry for April 9th, now only 4 behind!)

 

 

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21 responses to “A Home by the River

  1. I cannot even tell you how much I love this post. It’s funny because I see a lot of tiny pieces of all of the places I’ve lived — ok some pieces aren’t so tiny, but there isn’t just ONE place for me any more. In a few years, I’ll be looking for a new home — and I think I’ll be looking for something that brings a little bit of all of those places and that’s when it will really be “home”.

    • Denise, you have me pondering on all sorts of things now. I wonder how many things we choose and do from memories of our past without even realizing it? hrrrmmmm.

  2. isthisthemiddle

    Camping as a kid left a mark on me, too. We camped a lot at various places near Chesapeake Bay, so I’m tempted to consider that one of my homes. I lived on the Outer Banks for 13 years, so they are engraved on my heart too, even though the Banks I remember only live in my memory, they have changed so much.

    • That’s how it is with me. Even though it’s been trashed, changed by the flood, and people are starting to buy up the land I can still see it in my mind the same way it was when I was five, and that’s always how I’ll see it. Thank you for sharing!

  3. TheBehavioralChild

    It’s funny but for the longest time, whenever I dreamed about something to do with me at home, it was always in the context of the house where I grew up. We (my parents, sisters and I), moved several times since then, and of course, I now live elsewhere with my own little family. But every now and then, still, whenever I dream of home, our first house comes back to life.

    Great post Emily, made me totally nostalgic :)

  4. Since I somehow missed it when you first wrote this, I’ll reply now since youa re Ms. Spotlight BlogHer (wootwoot)! I have to say that my actual house is my home. Too much moving around as kid and some not so great memories keep me from calling anything from my childhood ‘home’. My grandparents house comes close, but when it was sold and my grandfather moved the house was torn down and a new one built. When we go away and come back to this house, it feels like home. But I’m fickle and I could easily move on and call another place ‘home’. My sense of home, like so many people, may be skewed – it feels nomadic, like maybe it doesn’t really exist in the context of what some people think of as ‘home’. S’ok…because I feel that I could find ‘home’ anywhere I go.

    • I get that, 100%, no fickle at all. I guess it is all in personalities and such… I hate being inside, so for me I guess it makes sense that I don’t resonate utter home-i-ness with a building. <3

      Ps. I'm tottaly dedicating (why is there no spell check on replies?) this too you and A. <3

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  6. I loved this post. My home, where is my home? At Lititz Moravian Church, where I raised my kids, in Philadelphia at my grandparent’s home but they are both gone now for quite a few years, and now… home is where my heart is. It is here in Big Bend with my hubby, and over there in Pewaukee at my daughters house.

  7. Sweet story. I have that “home” in my head too. I was in my hometown last fall and I drove by “that home” and I stopped. The new owners were out putting up Christmas lights and they let me go through the house and it was amazing and different than what was in my minds eye. It was such a gift. Thanks for making me think about it.

    • I can’t even imagine actually walking through my real, actual childhood home… I’m not sure I could handle that one, lol! Thanks for stopping in! <3

  8. I’m sorry I missed this too!
    This post really made me teary. I used to always think of my grandmothers house as my home, as I did most of my growing up there. But now that she’s gone I think that I thought of it as my home because that’s where she was.
    Beautiful piece, Emily!

  9. Hannah Joy Curious

    I have no blueprint for “home”. Until recently, the concept had always been completely unknown to me. I never had that “safe place” as a child, and consequently have no such place to return to as an adult. I tried many, many times to build a home in different locations, in different countries and invariably ended up feeling like I didn’t belong, no matter how hard I tried to blend in. I am 36 and only recently discovered what home means. But my days “at home” are counted, because I have the wrong passport. So when I think of home, I still see nothing. Thank you for your heartfelt and eloquent post. Your words moved me far more than I will ever be able to express.

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  11. keith ellwood

    Thanks for using my photo in such a nice article….

    • That must be the picture on the BlogHer feature. Such a great photo, I wish I could take credit for sharing it! Thanks for dropping in! <3

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