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!)