Monday, June 27, 2011

The best part of any trip is coming home

The last leg in any trip is the dirt road home

June 27, 2011

Home.  What a wonderful word.  Only four letters but they encompass so much. 

I was away from my own home last weekend to spend time with my very pregnant daughter and her sweet husband in Northampton, Mass.  Jenny and Brett will soon be first-time parents to not one but two babies.  Before the twins are born, I was eager to spend time with the child I birthed 30 years ago. 

Northampton, Mass. is a vibrant college town nestled in a fertile valley where lush gardens and tall trees surround pretty wood-frame houses.  Jenny and Brett live on the bottom floor of an older two-family building.  It is a lovely place in an exciting area. 

Our visit was the perfect balance of at-home and in-town time.  We filled the hours with meandering walks through picturesque neighborhoods and intimate talks in the cozy quarters of Jenny and Brett’s house.  We perused weekend tag sales as well as the offerings at local shops.  In addition to tasty creations cooked up in their kitchen, we lunched at a favorite restaurant and participated in a strawberry shortcake supper to celebrate a nearby town’s 250-year anniversary.  I was able to catch up with mutual friends with enough time left over to pull a few weeds in Jenny and Brett’s garden. 

The trip was a success yet I was elated to return home.

Home.  How happy I was to be back in my own bed with my husband by my side.  My yard.  My garden.  My potted plants in the porch.  My kitchen table.  My favorite food in the fridge.  Patterns and routines of my own creation. 

Going away can be wonderful but coming home is the best.

I’m grateful to be so content.  Some people struggle their entire lives to find a place where they feel so at peace.  On my trip, I renewed contact with one such person, a young traveler friend who has spent years at a time in far off locales exploring different cultures. 

“What do you want to do,” I asked her, “now that you’re back in the States?  Where would you like to be?  Do you want to settle down?”

I found her answer unsettling. 

“I have no plans,” she said.  “I could be anywhere, go anywhere, do anything I want.”

I suppose some people think her situation idyllic but to me the thought of constantly traveling from one place to another is disconcerting.  Where is your home base when you are constantly on the move?  Where are your roots? 

In my mind, the very concept of home involves the putting down of roots.  Home is a respite, a safety net, a place where I can retreat from worries, disappointments and woes.  It isn’t always perfect but it’s always there.  It is shelter, security and asylum when needed. 

As I flew back from New England, I thought about home and pondered its meaning.  I was on a full flight.  Passengers who were either returning from or en route to a home of their own occupied every seat.  Although we come from different backgrounds and live in different places, I suspect each of us share similar yearnings.  At the end of our trip, we all want to arrive safely at our destination.  We want to feel welcome and secure.  We want to be home

I went away for a weekend and I had a great time.  But the best part – the part I treasure most – happened after my drive back from the airport.  It was when I stepped out of the car and into my husband’s waiting arms. 

Each of us defines home differently.  To my young friend, it’s a backpack and the excitement of exploration.  To others it’s four walls surrounding a big hearth.  And sometimes it’s as basic as a loved one’s embrace. 

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