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Stories about Coming Home

Bill Radke

Karen Fritsche

Angela Kim

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Mother and Son
(David Polk)
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Bill Radke: This weekend a lot of college freshmen are coming back home for the first time. And what they and their parents find when they get back together, can be a whole lot of change.

Two years ago I was coming home for the holidays and I'm talking with my mother about a religion class that I had just completed.

That's David Polk from Chicago, Ill.

My mom was raised Catholic and my dad was raised Jewish, and I wasn't raised with really anything. And my mother is from Poland so she goes, "David, don't tell your father, but when you were two weeks old, you were secretly baptized." And I'm thinking to myself, what?

I wasn't shocked that I was baptized, although I was surprised. I was more surprised at the fact that it was this big secret.

Only a week later, we have this annual holiday dinner, and after a couple glasses of wine (which, of course, they're Polish, so they're kind of prone to that), they decide that we're going to do something different this year. We're all going to go around the table and everybody has to say something that the rest of the table didn't know about them. So, my father is there and you know, my godmother is there, but she doesn't know that I know that she's my godmother, and my mom's there. It comes to me and I said, "well, I just learned last week that I was secretly baptized." And my godmother was sitting next to me and she almost started crying, she was in tears. She didn't have to be in the closet anymore about being my godmother.

Not long after I learned that I was secretly baptized, I was with my Jewish grandmother and she tells me, "David, when you were in the hospital room, we gave you a secret briss." And I told her, "Well, at least part of that briss wasn't that much of a secret." Snip. Snip.

Sometimes homecomings can get complicated by changed expectations. Karen Anderson, from Superior, Wis., was so happy to welcome her daughter home from college, she made all her daughter's favorite foods, cheese balls and rice pudding.

My dad and my husband had always cut her own little tree in the woods of Northern Minnesota, when they cut our own and so, of course my dad is making sure her tree is perfect, and you know, everything was nice, so that when she came home she would just, you know, kind of relish in the warmth and the love.

I remember just feeling kind of a lump in my throat. I must have been showing more of that than I thought I was because she promptly said, "Mom, if you're going to be so emotional each time I come home, I won't want to come home so much!" Which, who knows, if that would have been or not, but it promptly snapped me back to reality.

It was a reminder that she had grown up and gone away to college and she would probably be a guest from here on in. She wouldn't live at the house anymore.

I'm Tom Rule and I'm from Macon, Ga. I have a son who just finished his first semester at college, so this is the first Christmas he's come home from college. For him it's still home, but it's halfway not home. But for him the big thing was that we started storing the vacuum cleaner in the middle of his room instead of in my closet. So he just kind of pushed it out of the way, but I think for him that said, you know, I don't live here much anymore.

On the other end of the spectrum, my wife's parents are having some health issues. This very well may be the last Christmas with my father-in-law. And at the same time, my grandfather is starting to shut down. All of this has me thinking about, I guess, the circle of life. And I sound middle aged when I say this, but the whole being sandwiched between having parents who are older and getting ready to move on and at the same time having a son who's in college and getting ready to move on as well, and here I am at 47, smack in between.

So it's made me very aware of how life progresses.

There's lots to celebrate. The trick's going to be remembering to celebrate and to not focus on the sad.

  • Music Bridge:
    Milda Doden Hamtar Oss Alla Till Slut
    Artist: Eric Malmburg
    CD: Verklighet and Beat (Hapna)

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