When somewhere is home…

Kate, over on Skipping School, asked, as an aside, when your parents’ home stops being your other home.  One of her commenters said that it happens when you have kids of your own, and your emotional-self centers in your own home.

My parents’ house, which I am leaving for again in hopefully about six hours, still feels mostly like home to me.  I obviously have an entire childhood’s worth of memories there, and enjoy watching my kids do some of the same idiosyncratic things I did, like chase dustmotes in the rays coming through the front door on a Saturday morning, or sitting atop the newel post in the front hall, watching life flow down the street outside from their lofty perch.

But it isn’t MY home anymore, more that of my parents and my memories.  I still *feel* at home there, mostly, but I think that is more familiarity of surroundings than anything else.  It has gotten somewhat downgraded in my heart, for better or worse.

Several other places have gotten upgraded though; any place where I have carte blanche to alter as I need to do to suit the needs of my children gets a boost.  Anywhere where my hosts keep a stash of my preferred foods on hand waiting for my next visit, whenever it may be, gets one too.  Can I arrive there in the middle of the night, get someone to hold the door while I offload sleepy children right into bed, and leave my keys on the counter in case someone needs to move my van?  That gets points, too.

None of these places are Home; I’d never let my kids make the messes there that they do here, or feel that it was ok for me to spend the day in my jammies unless I was ill, but they are my homes, with a lower case ‘h’.  I treasure them, and the friends and family that make me feel welcome in them.

My parents’ home is sort of between the two.  My father often tells me that my childhood home is still my home, but with the next breath he’s telling me to move our stuff, or complaining that my kids are making too much noise as they play, so that kind of undercuts it somewhat.

Home is a interconnectedness, a pattern of behaviour that works for all of those that inhabit it daily, even more than just a certain place.  The dynamics of my parents’ house are different, just because they are there; when the kids, Daddyman and I have been there without them, it is more like home, but also kind of hollow, like I know it should be, could be, more, if it worked for all seven of us.

We try to go down once a month, but I don’t think that more time is what is needed to get my children and parents creating Home together; my parents’ house simply isn’t set up for kids.  Never was, to tell the truth, but they outnumbered me, and I didn’t know any different back then.  The only television is four feet from where my father sits, eats and dozes his afternoon away, Swing or Easy Listening trivia and tunes playing on the TV.  That room is also the only space (along with the connecting hall) that my children have to play, and yes, sometimes they want to watch Martha Speaks, which my father indulges, at least as long as the kids are sitting there watching, which they don’t often, preferring to play while they listen, which apparently doesn’t count to my father.   I’m trying to get my kids to play upstairs in their room more, but then my parents both complain that they haven’t seen the kids all day.

My kids are little, and learning to make the best of any situation, but still.  My parents are awesome, but creatures of habit who tire easily of the busyness of small children.  I try to plan days out, away from them, when they can have the house to themselves for a while, when we are down.  We arrive tonight, for example, but are gone all day tomorrow and part of Sunday, before leaving again on Monday.  We always look forward to seeing each other, and miss each other again before we’ve even gone, but I know we also each breathe a big sigh of relief at the prospect of having our own spaces again, where we can be, spread, talk, play and schedule ourselves within just our own already-negotiated nuclear family home.

Home for me, right this very minute and most other besides, is me in bed, computer propped up on my knees, Daddyman snoring on his side of the bed, having left to go grocery shopping after midnight.  Buddy is next to me on the bed, playing horse and knight with the Lego castle he and Big D just built on the homeschool desk (aka my bedside table, but enormous).  Now they’re running around, and Daddyman is starting to wake up, which is good timing, since he still needs to unload the car before it can be reloaded.  Beara is still sacked out on the top bunk in her room, and now Buddy wants Ummies (to nurse), so he’s climbed back between Daddyman and I.  All this within the time it takes to type it, all in one place.

THAT is what Home is: a place that best meets the needs of the people in it.  It might not be tidy, or pretty, or (ha) quiet, but it meets our needs, and we grow and thrive here.  Home is the compromise we work out with each other.  Sure, we fight.  Who doesn’t?  Our needs change, we chafe at the compromises, and we renegotiate something that might not be perfect, but gets us through until the next need, when we’ll change it again, so it suffices.  It is Home.

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