As a teacher and toddler mom, it’s impossible not to mix work with pleasure. I’m always talking letters and numbers, analyzing books and themes. Recently, we watched the Wizard of Oz and E.T., and then had this conversation:
“Both main characters were trying for the same thing,” I told Autumn in hopes she’d make the connection.
“To go home,” she said.
I wasn’t surprised she understood. After all, the idea of home has been prominent in our lives lately. We just took a trip to Portland, and when we arrived at our air BnB, it took a little time for Autumn to comprehend that we’d be staying there temporarily, and then returning to our real abode. It reminds me of the story my mom tells about my arrival in Disney World at the age of three.
“I like our new house,” I said, “but why didn’t we bring my big wheel?”
To kids, home is concrete – the place where you sleep and have all your stuff. I recall never wanting to leave home and announcing to my parents my grand plan of living with them forever. Then my siblings left for college, and our house felt empty. It was then I realized home was more than just a place – it was a place with certain people.
Fast forward to now. Oregon was amazing, but it was difficult living out of a suitcase and then sharing a bed with someone who kicks her ruby red slippers into you all night and then being the one the flight attendant rushes over to on the plane with apple juice in hopes of soothing your hysterical toddler. Traveling is always hard. Traveling with a little one is quadruple hard. I thought that after the intensity, home would be a welcome reprieve, where I could breathe easily and sleep soundly. But instead, I felt out of sorts. My suitcase needed unpacking, my daughter needed bathing, and the two-hour time change made assimilating back into our routine even messier. Home was not the oasis I had imagined. That night, I whispered to Autumn as she drifted off to sleep:
“You are my home.”
I felt nauseous at my syrupy sentiment, and wondered what the heck I even meant. I supposed I watched too many cheesy films, and heard too many times the trite saying, “Home is where the heart is.” But, on second thought, both that saying and what I told Autumn didn’t sit well with me. I’ve often been with people I love, and still felt uneasy. And so I decided to broaden my home definition. Yes, it’s places with loved ones, but also, it’s food – the bananas with peanut butter Autumn and I gobble together. It’s the song “Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, which began as background music while my baby melted into my shoulder, and is now one we hum together. It’s phone calls with my sister during early morning commutes, and grande iced single shot lattes with one raw sugar. It’s yoga – the practice that grounded me over a decade ago and continues to bring me back to myself. It’s sweatpants with holes I refuse to give away, face licks from Tod Doodle, and the grandiose welcome Nana and Papa give Autumn after five days away.
Home is all that, and so much more.
In 1939, Dorothy made it back to Kansas, and in 1982, E.T.’s U.F.O. transported him to his planet. I know that Autumn sleeps better in our Bubble House, and I miss the simplicity of that original concrete definition. But in the New Year, so, too, am I grateful for the beautiful ambiguity and expansiveness of the concept of home.