‘Richard, you’re home!”
That was Mom’s exclamation as I walked into the kitchen, home for the holidays, in 1971. I surprised her and Dad by finding a ride to Berwyn from Carbondale, two days ahead of when they thought I’d arrive.
There she stood with her hands in the sink, scrubbing dishes after dinner. And in I strode: “Hi, Mom!”
Before that evening, I had never experienced the reality of “going home.” After all, I’d always been home.
During the six-hour trip from my dorm, Schneider Hall, to the family bungalow on Clarence Avenue, I started to appreciate that “home” was now something apart from where, for the last three months, I had been living, learning and changing.
The car pulled up just south of 15th Street. As I stepped out of the vehicle, thanked my friend for the ride, walked up the concrete steps of our porch, entered that familiar living room, and headed past the dining room table for the kitchen, I sensed that home was now a place where a lot of me still belonged, but not all of me.
Over the next 15 years, before Maureen and I started forming our own family, I did not live in what I considered to be a home. I moved from place to place for a while, following my career. Rather, on this part of my journey, home for me began to grow inside as I journaled, prayed and began to form something of a coherent, inner self.
Then in 1987, with the birth of our daughter, forming a new home became an imperative, quite naturally. The kind of nurturing, protective and developmental space that my parents had built for me helped me envision what I wanted to create for my kids.
Maureen and I married in 1985. We began raising young children in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and then established two homes as we moved from one Victorian to another in Oak Park. In 2017, with the kids gone, we sold the Elmwood Avenue house, the one in which we had spent the longest stretch of time raising our young ones.
Now, at 68, I appreciate having different manifestations of home active in my memory. Mom and Dad are gone, the bungalow is owned by others, but that brown, brick house and its neighborhood still carry a kind of intimate familiarity that wakes up the Berwyn kid in me when I see it. To him, that place is indeed home.
On my walks, I occasionally pass by the dwelling on Elmwood, in which we lived for 16 years. Seeing that blue house opens recollections from richly rewarding times, including the gardens, family dinners around a big, brown table, and a wedding reception for one of my sons and his wife.
And what of today’s home? Our granddaughter calls our condo “Oma’s and Beepa’s” house. As we grow with it, she and her little brother will help define our experience in it.
There is the inner home to which I go in my prayer, reflection and dreams. It’s a quiet study with many notebooks on the shelves, recounting my story, recording new chapters.
And there is that destination to which my faith tells me I will one day return. Such a “take” on the idea of home is expressed in the spiritual piece that our choir sings occasionally at Ascension: “Coming home, never more to roam. Open wide those arms of love. Lord, I’m coming home.”
The holidays, now just behind us, can stir up many elusive, sometimes frustrating episodes of going home. There are the distant abodes to which we travel, but at times only in our dreams. During this era of COVID, there are homes in which we might isolate ourselves to protect loved ones. When we’re lonely, we might not experience home at all.
But often we do get there: Take, for example, the college kids or returning soldiers who visit their families, surprising their parents and siblings with who they’ve now become.
Different voices from assorted times and varied places, within and without, declare to each of us: “You’re home!”