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What Does Home Mean to You?

“I just want to go home,” I said on day nine of our evacuation from the Sonoma County Fires.

Tired of the chaos, uncertainty and confusion, all I could think of was the bliss of sitting in the blue recliner with my feet up.

I’m not that much of a homebody, but after nine uncertain days away, home was exactly what I craved.

But as soon as the thought crossed my mind, I felt what was becoming a now familiar gut punch.

Many of my friends already knew their houses were gone.

Home, survivor guilt, Sonoma County fires, Santa Rosa fires, evacuation, talking to friends who have lost their home, what makes a house a home.My friends would never go home again, at least not to what had been their comfortable, well-loved house.

After thirteen days away, we returned.

The house looked like we had left in a hurry (true), the food in the refrigerator was spoiled (no electricity for 10 days), but we had mail in the mailbox.

Life could return to the new normal.

Except, the first morning back, I woke up to a room I did not recognize.

I kept blinking my eyes–“Where am I?”

Until I finally made sense of the wall hanging, the dresser and even the clock on my nightstand.

I was home.

Surely, I could have relaxed into that relief?

My second thought: “My friends will never wake up in their bedrooms again.”

Survivor Guilt?

Justified or not, it’s called  survivor guilt.

I’m not sure if any of us will ever be over it.

Our friends don’t expect us to feel guilty.

None of them have indicated jealousy or any sense of, “Why did your house survive and mine did not?”

Home, survivor guilt, Sonoma County fires, Santa Rosa fires, evacuation, talking to friends who have lost their home, what makes a home a home.

Photo by Gus Moretta (Unsplash)

That’s not to say they’re not thinking that, but they don’t say such things. Who would?

They also don’t have to.

In our grieving with them, we’re all thinking the same thing.

Driving past the ruins and ashes of places where we attended parties, laughed with our friends and enjoyed lovely evenings, is hard.

I’ve been in tears each time I’ve driven over Fountaingrove, a once gorgeous drive I preferred to take because of the stunning views.

Now the views remind me of what I saw in Agrigento, Sicily–ruins standing on a hill.

Six weeks later, the air still smells like smoke.

What is home?

I’ve been thinking about the meaning of home lately, as a result.

Poet Robert Frost once famously wrote,

“Home is the place that when you go there, they have to take you in.”

Is it the house itself, or something else?

Perhaps the familiar or the place where we can feel comfortable.

I’ve always tried to make home a haven–a place where we don’t have to be so careful about what we do and what we say.

We can even not say anything and snuggle away to our own thoughts, emotions and comforts.

I take off my shoes and curl up on furniture–and I’m perfectly happy when visitors do the same.

Home should mean comfort, the smell of chocolate chip cookies in the oven and a place to simply be.

Home, survivor guilt, Sonoma County fires, Santa Rosa fires, evacuation, talking to friends who have lost their home, what makes a home a home.

Can’t you smell them? Photo by Jennifer Pallian (Unsplash)

But what if you’ve lost that place?

How do you simply be?

Home is the relationships that are nurtured in a house

With all of our Navy moves, we’ve long known that home is really a state of mind revolving around the relationships of love.

I don’t have to take the children in–they all live elsewhere now–but I want to take them in.

When our family visited Groton, Connecticut ten years after leaving, I directed my husband as he drove around town revisiting the places that meant so much to me–and I thought our older children.

But it turned out no one remembered any of it.Home, survivor guilt, Sonoma County fires, Santa Rosa fires, evacuation, talking to friends who have lost their home, what makes a home a home.

“How can you not remember the way to church?” I demanded of my husband.

He looked at me.

“This place was never home to me, Michelle. Home is wherever you and the children are.”

(I began to amend my stories, then, and you can read that post here: Revising My History–Why ever Not?).

I had to smile, though, because he was right.

Home is where we’re loved, accepted, encouraged, cheered, confronted and acknowledged.

That’s why church can be a home, too.

27 families from our church lost their houses in October 2017.

Our church, however, stands.

And for many, that means the place where people love them, encourage them, hug them and want only the best for them, still remains.

It often feels just like home.

Tweetables

What is home after you no longer live in a house? Click to Tweet

The meaning of home after a devastating wildfire–or just a move. Click to Tweet

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