Dorothy was right: there’s no place like home. I say this on the heels of a weekend jaunt to Bethany Beach with four good friends and a few dozen oysters. We all had a marvelous time; well, maybe not the oysters, but they did their duty and we thanked them for their service.
My wife and I were only away for two nights, but maybe the best part of being away is coming back home. Coming home always feels good to me. I’m not really talking about the structure of our house, although I like that well enough—the front porch, the backyard, the snug rooms, the comfy furniture, the art on the walls, the knickknacks on every shelf and table, all the clutter and dust, along with that compendium of never-ending chores and and repairs and responsibilities that are part and parcel of caring for, and living in, an old wood house.
No; I’m talking about—actually, writing about—something else: home. “Home” is a concept, a state of mind that goes far beyond the walls and bones of this old house. It’s the feeling of belonging that comes with living in this town and being part of a community that is so much more than a collection of houses and shops and businesses and streets. To me, the word “home” implies a sense of family, of caring, of shelter from the storm. I think that’s what Dorothy meant when she said, “there’s no place like home…there’s no place like home.” Oz was just a dream or maybe a bump on her head, but home was very real.
You can buy a house, but you have to make a home. I know this because that’s what my wife does. Real estate is her profession, but home-making is her art. Somehow, she fills the spaces of this house with all the intangibles that make it our home. I never expected or imagined that I would find a place I love as much as I love our home. It’s the stage on which we live the ups and downs of our life together, sharing it with friends and family, filling it with love and memories or enough smoke to set off the fire alarm, but that little episode is another story for another day.
I’ve lived in many houses; a few of them were also homes. I realize how fortunate I am. There is far too much pain and suffering in this world, yet here I am, rhapsodizing about the safety and sanctity of home. Actually, about homes, plural. My wife and I are doubly blessed to have two houses—both homes. It doesn’t seem fair, yet there it is. What is my responsibility in this? I mull that over constantly and never come up with a good-enough answer. Maybe William Faulkner had something like that in mind when he wrote, “how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”
And then there’s this: life can take you to unexpected places, but love always brings you home.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. His new novel “This Salted Soil,” a new children’s book, “The Ballad of Poochie McVay,” and two collections of essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”), are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is Musingjamie.net.