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Your Stories of Home

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Annie Smith's home
(Annie Smith)
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Michele, her father, and his Red Sox cap.
(Michele)

We asked for your stories of home. We received dozens of stories, thoughtful essays about the meaning of home and entertaining housing adventures.

Here are some selections:

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A Boston Red Sox ball cap in a crowd brings me home.

Back in the early '80s, my dad was unable to support his wife and three young kids in Massachusetts. He made the bold move to Saudi Arabia with his family in tow. We had a great life. He provided opportunities to his kids he was never given. After junior high, I left the kingdom to attend private school only because school was not offered after the 9th grade. I hated it. I missed my family terribly. After barely surviving each semester, I would travel 14 hours on an airplane, then face a grueling immigration and customs process. Finally, I would emerge through the gate to face a huge crowd of people all awaiting their loved ones. I quickly scanned the crowd to locate what I needed more than anything and there it was - the Boston Red Sox ball cap. I knew I was home. I did this countless times until dad passed back in 1989 at the age of 42. To this day, the sight of Boston Red Sox ball cap in a crowd brings me home.

Michele
Oregon

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Home "Improvement" Gone Wrong

It was 1998, and the house was 998 sq ft. I was so excited on moving day. Everyone who helped out was gone, I was in my own home, and just could not believe the feeling of joy and independence. I grabbed a cool beer from the fridge and started settling in. I was everywhere at once in that little 998 sq feet. The narrow hallway had this archaic wall heater that stuck out and kept getting in my way and I decided that I could rip it away from the wall and set it aside so it was out of the way. My 'guns' were a lot more developed in 1998 and I was totally buffed from working out so I figured I could do it - it was not that big. So I get in proper lifting position, grab the thing, yank it as hard as I can away from the wall and all the sudden I hear a steady hissing coming from the wall OMG! it was a gas heater and I see right away that I have just ripped the gas line open!

Annie Smith
St. Louis, Mo.

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Dust, Grit and Tank Oil

Until I was 25, home was a variety of Army posts as my dad served his country for 30 years as an Army officer, and then my husband for four more. When I see an Army uniform, it transports me to the moment when I most felt like I was home: the time of day when Dad walked through the door of whatever tiny house we lived in; the smell of him: dust, grit, tank oil, the loud clump of his heavy boots on the floor. It didn't matter what slice of undesirable land we lived in (civilians don't want to live near tank units training for missions), the houses were the same: white, cinderblock walls, windows painted by the lowest bidder every time someone moved so they never worked properly, two, three, six houses all crammed together with shared walls through which you could hear the phone ring next door. . . Home was those uniforms: Daddy, my friends' dads, the guys running PT chanting cadences, the soldier taking the picture for my ID card . . . All home.

Annebet Pettit
Eden Prairie, Minn.

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The Turkey in the Car

My home for the holidays was once (briefly) the family station wagon. When I was about 5, for some reason my parents cooked the turkey, then we drove from Oakland to Salinas (Calif.) for Thanksgiving dinner. In 1955, that was a drive of 3 or more hours.

To keep the turkey warm, they put it in the Coleman ice chest, but to avoid the turkey sweating/condensing inside the ice chest, they kept the lid open about an inch.

Everyone one of the 6 in my family that rode with that turkey remembers those hours while we had to savor that delicious smell. It is such a strong memory that whenever someone mentions Thanksgivings past, someone brings that up.

It's like we had to sit at home, even though it was the car, and pretend that no one was hungry and wanted to rip that bird apart.

Cynthia Frueh
Woodland, Calif.

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The Embrace of Home

I used to imagine that home was a physical place, that it could change if my family moved. I did not realize what home was to me until it was gone, until my mom died. She died nearly four years ago. The last time I went "home", it was the night before her surgery. Before we said goodnight, I climbed into bed next to my mom. I was 33-year-old woman with husband and kids of my own, and yet at that moment, I felt like a small girl. I physically remembered the feeling of safety and connection to my mom that I would find as a child when I would awake in the night and climb into her bed. ... After she died, I realized how much I missed the possibility of that safety and connection. Sometimes, when I close my eyes and remember that night, I can still physically feel her embrace, like going "home."

Amy Gort
Apple Valley, Minn.

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Home by my Side

It wasn't until I moved to the New Zealand, just about as far away from home I could have gotten, that I finally felt and understood "home is where the heart is." Although I still missed the house I grew up in and the familiarity of a place, I now had a partner I was traveling with who provided the security and intimate knowledge of something I had always gotten from Winter Park [Fla.]. As the two of us traveled through the North and South Islands of the tiny Pacific country, moving in and out of hostel bedrooms on an almost nightly basis, I kept waiting for the stirrings of homesickness to creep into my stomach. Alas, they never did. Each new hostel bedroom we checked into, even if was just for a night, became as secure and safe as my bedroom waiting for me back on Mayfield Avenue. I'm no longer with that same partner, so in many ways this is a thank you to her for giving me the pleasure of traveling with my home by my side.

Billy Allen
Carlton, Ore.

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After Five Years as a Road Warrior

I'm Platinum on American Airlines, Gold on US Air and Silver on Northwest, and somehow have 40,000 points on Delta and some spare change here and there. For five years, I have mostly left home on Monday and returned home Thursday or Friday night. When I was divorced a couple of a years ago, my ex took a good portion of our kitchenware because I didn't need it. Buying groceries for a couple of meals a week doesn't really work.

Two weeks ago was my last week on the road. For my weekend, I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and bought some kitchenware for what I used to cook. But when I got home I couldn't really remember how to manage, and I went out to eat anyway. I used to cook beans in the crockpot or the pressure cooker each weekend and eat them for most of the week.

I have had to compress my entire life into the two day weekend. The first weekend "home" was catching up; about the same. But also different: I completely unpacked my suitcase and put it in the closet, something I had never done in five years.

This is my second weekend. I relaxed in a couch in my house and realized that I had never sat in that particular couch the entire time I've been in this house. I took time to meditate in the morning; something I used to do. Today, when I get home from church, I'm going to go ahead and give those beans a try.

Mary D'Rozario
Raleigh, N.C.

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Maybe Home Is A Shared Journey

I've spent most of my adult life thinking of what home really means since my husband and I moved our young family to live in Spain in the early 80s for 12 years. At that point in time, "home" to me was back in the States where my extended family was. I'd long for the times we'd be Stateside and I could just be with my folks.

After an unexpected move back to Indiana when my kids started junior high/high school, home suddenly meant Spain. Those formative years spent in a foreign country becomes home and for people like my kids and husband (who spent his life growing up in South America) there is even a term to describe them - third culture kids.

Home for us - 20 moves in about as many years - became wherever we were ... the four of us together. ... California wildfires are a stark reminder of how fragile this physical space is. I know that if we'd lose our stuff, we'd still find home in the four of us being in one room - staring into each other's eyes - knowing the experiences we've shared and the miles we've traveled together...our own little band of nomads. Maybe home is just shared journey.

Wendy Stoner
Grand Rapids, Mich.

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The Sound of Home

Consider the word, "aich, oh, em, ee." Listen to yourself say it. Feel the breath start at the back of your throat, savor the roundness of the "oh" and the vibration of the "em" behind your nose. It almost sounds like a moan. It starts like the catch in your heart when you cry, but then opens out into that beautiful roundness, and ends with a comforting hum.

Tony Dawson
Oswego, Ill.

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

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