how gratitude and present moments connected me to home

When we are away from home, we may not always recognize the ways we are reminded of where we came from. In Under the Birch Tree, my memoir due out next year, I connect to home through living in the present moments and recognizing gratitude.

Dream-HomeWhen entering a bakeshop, for example, you notice the sweet smelling air but don’t connect it to the time when you stood in your home kitchen while an apple pie baked in the oven, or while walking through a parking lot to your car, squawking seagulls fly overhead in circles then dive low, skimming the ground annoying you, but don’t realize the birds never ceased hovering around your summer vacation home, or when chatting with a woman, about your age, on your train into work and you click with her but don’t think why, just that she reminds you of your best pal growing up back home.

“I realized home might not be limited in definition to a physical place,” I wrote.

As I grew older and had to move from home, the only place I knew, my only point of reference, I learned that my home on Carlisle Avenue was not forever. I had to leave my street, my birch buddy, buttercup yellow bedroom walls, and all the physical remnants inside and out that made up my home. As my years progressed through high school and college, focusing on the present moments– surrounding sounds, the colors, the smells in the air–enabled me to cope with my sense of loneliness and lack of belonging, of feeling at home.

I spent summer breaks between high school and my college years in a townhouse with my mother, walking across the street to the subdivision’s swimming pool to get away. While sitting poolside, “The sound of splashing water surrounded me with now overgrown wild prairie. I listened to the symphony of crickets chirping in rhythm with the water’s ripple. The wind carried sweet smells of wild flowers, chlorine, and humid air. The clubhouse held on to its new wood smell with accompanying mounds of wood chips surrounding its mature landscaping. I was transported back in time when I once had connected with place, sounds, and smells.”

I was grateful for the present moments and these connections as I continued to understand that home was not necessarily defined as a single physical place on Carlisle Avenue. Friendships, places, and even sensual experiences were connections, also important to home.

So the next time you walk into a bakery, through a parking lot, or strike up a conversation with your seat mate on a train, live in those moments, pause for gratitude, and acknowledge the possible connections. Remember you are home.

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