Twenty-three acres of black dirt, a four-room house, a pecan tree, a walnut tree, cotton, and the woods - I still think of it as home though the house is gone and none of it belongs to me any longer. We moved from there to a tiny village at the last vestiges of the Appalachian Mountains in the North of Mississippi - to my great grandmother's home. My first boyfriends visited there; my brother died in Louisiana and his body was brought there to rest while we grieved. I still think of that white house as home even though a chain link fence surrounds the equipment that now stands on that place. I even wrote a poem about that home.
I've lived in more places than I can remember since then, but what I've learned is that "home" is a place where I feel safe, where the walls themselves seem to wrap around me when I need hugs. Only two other places seem to fit that definition.
In Columbus, Mississippi, my Mom lived in a rambling old house with nine rooms, an attic and a basement. The attic was filled with such wonderful stuff that my friends' scavenger hunts always passed through there. I lived there periodically during most of my adult life. It was a safe place to be, and the sofa-bed in the attic was my retreat; I could look over the roof tops and feel my worries float across the tree tops as I rested there. It still feels like home, and I sometimes catch myself saying "Columbus", when I mean another city.
In Winston-Salem, a brick ranch house with what used to be an overflowing basement was home. My soulmate and I began our life together there; dreaming of years to come and things we would do, but mostly just being. Our friends joined us there for food and companionship. God was certainly present in that home.
Now I live somewhere else, somewhere that isn't home yet. Someday this house will be safe. But as Edgar Guest wrote in "Home":
IT takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home,
A heap o' sun an' shadder, an' ye sometimes have t' roam
Afore ye really 'preciate the things ye lef' behind,
An' hunger fer 'em somehow, with 'em allus on yer mind.
It don't make any differunce how rich ye get t' be,
How much yer chairs an' tables cost, how great yer luxury;
It ain't home t' ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o' wrapped round everything.
Home ain't a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Afore it's home there's got t' be a heap o' livin' in it;
Within the walls there's got t' be some babies born, and then
Right there ye've got t' bring 'em up t' women good, an' men;
And gradjerly as time goes on, ye find ye wouldn't part
With anything they ever used -- they've grown into yer heart:
The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
Ye hoard; an' if ye could ye'd keep the thumb-marks on the door.
Ye've got t' weep t' make it home, ye've got t' sit an' sigh
An' watch beside a loved one's bed, an' know that Death is nigh;
An' in the stillness o' the night t' see Death's angel come,
An' close the eyes o' her that smiled, an' leave her sweet voice dumb.
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an'when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an' sanctified;
An' tuggin' at ye always are the pleasant memories
O' her that was an' is no more -- ye can't escape from these.
Ye've got t' sing an' dance fer years, ye've got t' romp an' play,
An' learn t' love the things ye have by usin' 'em each day;
Even the roses 'round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they 'come a part o' ye, suggestin' someone dear
Who used t' love 'em long ago, an' trained 'em jes t' run
The way they do, so's they would get the early mornin' sun;
Ye've got t' love each brick an' stone from cellar up t' dome:
It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home.