A physical place or a state of being. It can even have emotions. Linear or ever-changing, it may travel like a river with ebbs and flows. Or maybe it is elusive. My memoir read like an autobiography. I was clear as I spewed vivid memories and recalled markers attained as my decades rolled on by. But I wasn’t clear about its central theme. After I recited my experiences, triumphs and adversities I had hoped that my theme would poke through the timeline like a dandelion in springtime and the contrast of theme to narrative would be self-evident. Disappointingly, it didn’t.
I repeated a word in my manuscript I had used with several meanings in various contexts. I was drawn to exploring the word “home” further as I believed my theme sat dormant within its meaning. I sought the answer to a commonly asked question, “So, where’s home?” One could recite quickly the name of a street or neighborhood however where we reside now may not necessarily be where we call home. Home could be where you were born, established roots, even grew up. Maybe home refers to a permanent place. Or maybe home is not so narrowly defined but is broad and encompassing. My theme was emerging.
As a young girl, I considered home to be on Carlisle Avenue, where I grew for the first 15 years of my life. With my birch tree accessorizing the short walk from the driveway to the front door, my birch buddy welcomed me and all who traveled there. My home was a place I learned to ride my bike along Carlisle and streets branching out from there. I would search for friends to greet and then I would see them again in school. It was the place I always returned to after Mom called my name to come home. The kitchen was my home where I could get a peanut butter and fluffernutter sandwich on white bread. A deep cookie jar sat conspicuously on the counter where Mom stacked warm chocolate chip cookies in it all the way to the top. My home was always the place where I had fun like having birthday parties or running through the sprinkler in the backyard on a sultry summer afternoon, or where I ran to feel safe after I didn’t think I did well on my test at school.
My bedroom was my home. The depth of my walk-in closet seemed endless in length yet narrow in width to feel embraced at the shoulders. I often sat on the yellow and white shag carpeted floor which added color to the starkness of the pallid walls. I talked with my creative mind as I considered an Etch-A-Sketch, Light Bright and a plastic briefcase that opened up as a study desk with art supplies. A large shoebox filled with crayons was nestled near the door in the corner next to my Singer Genie sewing machine. Knitting and crochet needles stuck out of an old canvas bag bursting with multiple colored yarns and projects in varying stages of completion. A macramé box was slid underneath and stuffed with colored chord in varying degrees of thicknesses. This world was a microcosm within the house on Carlisle, a Petri dish for my development and for establishing connections.
Home is not synonymous with permanence. Nothing is permanent just as life is not linear. I could never really go back to Carlisle after we had moved out because it would never be as it once was when I stood next to my birch tree waiting for my picture to be taken. Home was a state of being in a snapshot just as a picture records those unique minutes of that particular time of day, never to be recorded exactly that way again.
Home is in the blue sky overhead and fertile soil underfoot. Home remembers the sound of popcorn Dad would pop on Sunday nights marrying the wafts I smelled intermingled with Camay soap while taking a bath, signaling me to hurry downstairs to the kitchen. He would then fill the different colored popcorn bowls to the rim as I watched in anticipation and awaited an explosion of goodness in my mouth while he dribbled butter and splashed salt to crown the bumpy mound. Home sees the pop of red in Mom’s roses in the backyard inviting me to touch the velvet petals awakened by their fragrance.
My memories were marked by travel in time where finding home and making connections were dominate themes.
My home on Carlisle was my first home where I learned in simplest of terms during my formative years. I calculated I had lived in as many as a dozen homes from my birth to now, my 50’s. And over the decades I realized home was not limited to a physical structure or a place on a street, but the memories I recalled from experiences living in those dozen places. It was in my second half of life, as I reflected on my memories in my manuscript, where I found simplicity, that life was open and spacious and I was more participatory in it. I was present with new and deeper passions making connections.
I continue to work on developing my theme and weaving its universal meanings through my memoir. I refer to a quote by Richard Rohr in his book Falling Upward:
“Home is both the beginning and the end. Home is not a sentimental concept but an inner compass and a North Star at the same time. It is a metaphor for the soul.”