Sue Bruns: May you find your home this year
While cleaning my office in late December, I came across some poems from my college days. One, titled “Home,” written during Christmas break of my freshman year, was about the absence of “home.”
It talked about “going home” for Christmas, but, upon arriving at the house where I had grown up, the feeling of home had changed. The poem ended with a line about “going home” after that Christmas break in the context of returning to my dorm room, which was not really home either.
A second poem — also titled “Home” — used the paradoxical image of the word “home” written in the dust on the coffee table in the living room of my childhood home.
Funny, I thought, as I read through the writings by my former self — funny how the concept of home has evolved throughout my life.
When I was 6-years-old, my family moved from our old house on Broadway Street in St. Peter, Minn., to a brand new home on Washington Avenue. Throughout the summer, we had spent many hours at the site of the new house, watching the progress of the landscaping and finish work. The anticipation of moving to a new house with a huge yard was much stronger than any sentimentality for the old house.
Only my younger sister expressed any loss of home the first night we stayed in the new house. As we were getting ready for bed, she asked Mom, “When are we going home?” But before long, the new house was the only home we knew.
When I was 13, I remember hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree while watching “The Wizard of Oz” on TV and feeling that ache inside when I heard Dorothy’s sparkling red, heel-clicking mantra: “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”
A few years later, moving away to college didn’t bother me at all. Relatives warned me of homesickness, but the excitement and newness of college life superseded any longings to be back in my home town. Still, judging by my recently discovered poems from that year, I was beginning to feel a loss of home.
The years after college included a variety of rented apartments and houses in three different towns — none of them “home.” Gary built our first house shortly after we were married. Our little family lived there — in our first home — until our son Eric was almost a year old, when we moved to the house in which we lived for 24 years (our second home) before Gary built our retirement home.
Christmas 2012 was our first in this house. When Eric and Jessy came home for Christmas, it occurred to me that they might feel sad not to be returning to the house where they’d grown up, but it didn’t seem to bother them.
Perhaps the fact that I had packed up everything in my son’s old room, painted the walls yellow and put up sheer curtains shortly after he moved off to college and that I had converted my daughter’s bedroom into a sewing room when she left, had transitioned them. Maybe those room adjustments had been the loss of home for them.
We spent Christmas 2013 at Eric’s house in Mankato. We prepared food together, ate, visited, ate, opened gifts, ate. Our core family was together again for Christmas. No part of me wished I were somewhere else or in some Christmas past. Surrounded by family, we were all at home.
A few days after Christmas, back in Bemidji, I watched an episode of “Call the Midwife” that involved a reunion of characters and a giving of gifts. The final scene showed the warmth and companionship of friends as they visited around a cozy fire, the narrator’s voice speaking what I had felt just a few days before:
“Home is not simply a mark or a map any more than a river is just water. It is the place of the center compass from which every arrow radiates and where the heart is fixed. It is the force that forever draws us back.”*
Happy New Year, and wherever you may be, may you find home throughout 2014.
*From “Call the Midwife,” Season 2, Episode 8