I attended a women's group meeting one evening this week. We meet the third Thursday of every month for an hour and a half. Each time there's a topic selected by the moderators. This month we talked about home.
When I was growing up in a military family, we moved every three years or so. So I lived in California, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina and Hawaii. That was in the first 20 years. Then, during my first marriage I lived in California, Georgia, Texas and Oregon. I count 47 residences in my lifetime, and I moved into my current house 20 years ago, when I was 47.
I talk about houses, though, not homes. I can remember the interior rooms of most of the houses I've lived in, and most of the exterior views. But I can't conjure up feelings for any of the places I lived in my early childhood.
The house I live in now is a home. Really, a home. When my husband Art and I moved here we had eight children ranging in age from eight to 23. Three of them lived with us and the rest with their other parents, but we had frequent visitation. This place was big enough for everyone to gather.
We went through a long string of teenagers here, being our pointless parenting selves for over ten years, but establishing bonds in our blended family that still exist. When our kids were all grown and gone, Art and I lived quietly in our big house for 15 more years.
Then last year, my sister Alyx and her husband Virgil moved from Alaska and now reside in their motorhome on our property. Originally intended to be a one- to three-month stay, it's now for an indefinite time. The four of us find our little community to be a positive combination of people with varying skills and aptitudes, and most of the time we all get along. (It helps that Alyx works nights and Virgil works days and Art and I don't work at all!) And last month Art's son Peter asked to rent a room while he attends nursing school. Now we are a community of five. It's not anything I would ever have expected - to have a full house after so many years - but I like it.
In my women's circle, home is also about community outside our houses. Here in Washington we are part of a web of caring. In Tucson, where we live in the winter, our very small home is just the right size for our friendly community of North Americans escaping dreary weather elsewhere. We feel home the minute we drive through the gate.
I have friends who grew up in one house with a close-knit family or a not very happy one. And friends who grew up like me, moving around every few years. In July I'll be attending a reunion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where I attended high school. Nearly everyone there will be like me. There's a kind of home that may happen at the reunion, as we return to our common ground after 50 years away.
From my perspective as a child I could never have imagined what home would look like now.
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