It was mid-November in 1972. I spent the early morning pedaling my bike around the surrounding streets to drop the Saturday edition of Hartford Courant inside my neighbor’s screen doors. The remainder of the morning was spent raking leaves onto big tarps and dragging them to the curb for pick-up. After a lunch of Fluffernutters and Nesquik, my friends and I rode our bikes through the woods, hit acorns with a baseball bat and played Nerf football in the street. By the time dinner rolled around, I was pretty tired out.
When I finally came indoors, my mother suggested a pre-dinner nap on the couch.
I fell onto the couch and pulled an afghan over myself to keep warm. My mother had crocheted the afghan and it was well-worn to the point of being perfectly soft. As I closed my eyes and fell into a light doze, I could hear the murmur of a football game playing on the TV and the bustle of my mother preparing dinner. The room was filled with the smell of pot roast and the wood stove.
For whatever reason, when I think of my childhood home, I remember that moment. That cocoon of contentment. The satisfying tiredness of a day well spent, the comfort and familiarity of our home and the security of being surrounded by my parents, siblings and the family dogs.
For me, that moment represents the meaning of ‘home sweet home’.
There are many other memories from the last six decades within this homestead. Creeping down the stairs on Christmas morning. Manic Easter egg hunts. Family basketball, football, horseshoe and board games. Dropping my daughter off for my parents to watch over her. My father’s last Thanksgiving dinner with the family in 2009.
As a child, I was amazed to hear about families that decided or needed to move multiple times. It was so contrary to my personal experience. I didn’t realize my good fortune.
No matter how old, I cherished that moment when I passed through the doors when returning home from the Army, California or wherever else life had taken me. Even when I had my own house nearby, walking through my parent’s door was still ‘home’. My mother had a great deal to do with that as she always kept the pantry stocked with my favorite food and drink.
It felt as though the home I grew up in would always be there.
Last November, my mother was admitted to the intensive care unit at Hartford Hospital. She passed two weeks later. As a family, we were heartbroken. She’d been more than a mother to us and that’s already a lot. She’d been a member of the crew. Whether it was vacations, holidays or grandchildren’s events, she remained the hub of our activities.
In the weeks following her death, I felt her absence greatly. I had called her every day and, out of instinct, often found myself reaching for my phone to call her before realizing, anew, that she was gone. When I arrived at our home to check on things, I expected her, as always, to appear at the door to let me in. To share a motherly hug.
What I found as the days, weeks and months passed, is that my childhood home wasn’t home anymore. The physical structure remained. The amazing memories remained but it no longer felt the same.
What I learned was that ‘home’ was my father and my mother. It was their immense loving care that created our home.
With their passing, it’s now simply a house.
My new home is built whenever and wherever our family gathers to spend time together.
I’m sure that I’ll drive by my childhood home from time to time. I’ll hope that our memories will provide positive vibrations to the new residents.
It’s a lovely house but what made it our home was the love of our parents.