Back in February, I wrote a post called Where is “Home”? Does It Matter? and then followed it with Where is “Home”? Does It Matter” (the gardening version). Those posts were actually provoked by an article my mom sent me, since she’s the kind of person who tears things out of magazines and then drops them in an envelope, slaps a stamp on it, and trusts the Postal Service to do its business. I like this about her. (Don’t worry, friends, I like those of you who just e-mail me links to articles, too.)
The piece was an article from Smithsonian Magazine written by a professor at the University of Kentucky. I think my mom sent it for two reasons–one, out of curiosity to ask if I knew this particular professor, and two, because it was about central Kentucky, that mysterious place of Baptists, bourbon, and horse-racing I now call “home.”
In the article, novelist Kim Edwards–she’s much better known as a novelist than as a professor, I would guess–talks about Kentucky becoming home for her since relocating twelve years ago. She’s originally from upstate New York. I particularly resonated with much of what she wrote, being from central Pennsylvania myself and having gone to college in uber-rural western New York state.
In the article, Edwards concludes by contrasting her own dynamic feelings about place and what is familiar–or, as I’m fond of saying, what warms her heart–with that of her children, who do not know anything other than central Kentucky as “home”:
. . . our daughters, for whom Lexington has always been home . . . think two inches of snow constitutes a blizzard, expect spring to arrive mid-March and feel a bit uneasy swimming in lakes because the water fades into darkness above a bottom they cannot see. . . . Lexington is home—it’s their hometown. . .
This got me to thinking about what it means to call something your “home.” It’s not just a hometown, as she says, the place you were born or the earliest place you remember. It’s not just where your extended family lives, if you’re fortunate enough to have them all in one city, state, or even region of the country. (I don’t, by the way. And as an unimportant sidenote, I’ll add that Kentuckians often say that I’m a “northerner,” or that I’m from “out east” or even “the northeast,” and sometimes it is hard to resist telling them that, actually, Pennsylvania is one of the midatlantic states, thank you. I remember the maps quite clearly.)
I think “home” is more about what is familiar, as Edwards’ description of her daughters implies. Even the silly things, like swimming in lakes, which kind of creeps me out and I grew up doing it, or like how much snowfall you get in the winter and whether you are good at driving through it, like not needing to explain what a whoopie pie is or why I put ketchup on my scrambled eggs. Those things.
Home is about the comforts of normal.
So, let’s take this a step further.
I find it a little weird that my [future] kids might have a twang, will want to take horse-riding lessons, and won’t have much experience building snow forts. Their normal will be different than mine, and they probably won’t get warm fuzzies about pickled beets.
But what else might they think is normal?
Well, I hope they don’t find it weird to have extra places set at the table, an open table, to have potlucks in our house each week.
To have college students dropping by without warning.
To have friends living with us as part of our family.
To have a world that includes people who are different than they are.
That’s what I want home to be for them.
Whatever it looks like.
Wherever it is.