What is “home?”
Most people would say it’s where they live, citing their address, as if to establish their unique footprint. For others, home is where they grew up, where they started. Some may even have more than one home.
In my forthcoming memoir, Under the Birch Tree, my story begins with my girlhood home, the place where I grew up. I learn what home is by embracing it, outside and inside the house.
I was a walker and “I would circle the house, starting in the backyard, continuing around to the side door and then to the front yard to meet a landscaped island of pussy willows, evergreens, and a black light pole stuck in the middle of the foliage.” A birch tree stands tall and arabesque near the front door of my home. Upon the return of my many circular trips, my birch buddy greeted me. Soon, I learn my birch tree is synonymous with home.
Years later, memories flood when I come across old blueprints of my house, spreading the folded blue pages on the floor and then tracing with my finger, each room outlined in white as I saw the rooms come alive once again.
But soon, home was no longer a physical place as I was faced with moving away. As the years passed, home changed to a deeper meaning, a state of being, one I would gain back again in the most unpredictable ways. My emotional ties to home would never leave me.
Through the decades, I discovered connections that always brought me back to home, not to the physical place, but to a place when I remembered seeing my birch buddy in greeting out the front door or when returning after a bike ride through the neighborhood. Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Mermaid Chair, said, “You can go other places, all right – you can live on the other side of the world, but you can’t ever leave home”
Think of these times, for a moment. When taking a walk, a hike through a forest of trees perhaps, and the largest tree you’ve ever seen, catches your eye. Its shape is extraordinary. Or you walk into a place, maybe a bake shop, and the fragrance is sweet and comforting in a curious way. Or you are on a train or bus, and you start talking with the woman next to you. You two click right away.
Well, I ask you because they are just examples of the endless ways open for us to connect. Throughout my story, I discover the many connections that always bring me back to a home place.
That tree you thought was just awesome? Maybe it reminded you of the trees that grew along the parkway in the neighborhood where you grew up. That warm, pleasant fragrance? Perhaps the smell makes you think of the fruit pies your mom always baked in the kitchen when you came home from school. And that woman you clicked with in conversation? She is much like your best friend while growing up back home.
Home never really does leave us. We find home through connections with people, places, even through scents in the air.
Under the Birch Tree is my story of discovering connections and finding home.