My daughter and I recently took our annual trek back to the United States, our home country. We visited our Maryland community, home when my husband’s work stations us in Washington DC. We spent time with my older two children and extended family, and reconnected with friends from home. Then I traveled to Ohio, and visited my dad and siblings in the home where I grew up. Now I am back in Romania, our current home.
The word home can be a complex term for the global nomad. For me it is a word that emits a flood of longing and quite often, confusion. I typically feel a degree of homesickness no matter where I am. I always miss someone dear to me and frequently feel that I am failing loved ones by not being there to offer support. I would like to live close to my aging father so I could share in his remaining time and assist my brother and sister in his care. I would like to be in the US this month to help move my children as they relocate to new universities. At the same time my husband and youngest daughter need me here with them.
What does home mean? I looked up several official definitions but found all unsatisfactory. The dictionary spoke of a specific place of permanence and longevity that is shared by those who make up a family. Those of us who live the life of an ex-pat have difficulty identifying such a place, though we do try. Following are some comments I’ve heard during this transition season. “Home is where my dog is.” or “When I unpack my books, then I’m home.” And my favorite, “Home is where I keep my unpacked boxes. I’ll discover what’s in them when I stop moving.”
Sometimes home is identified with things. A new house starts to feel like home when there are pictures on the wall, when a familiar well-worn throw is tossed on the couch, or the traditional Christmas stockings are hung.
My children have been moved from one hemisphere to another their entire lives. They hesitate when asked where home is. My older children have never lived in Romania but have come for holidays or breaks. It is home for them because it is where they find their parents, sister, and pets. It’s the place they are longed for, greeted enthusiastically, and loved unconditionally. It is where they belong. They are part of a unit that is full of memories, comfort, laughter, and traditions.
Whether we are global nomads or have lived in the same place for decades, our homes are in constant flux. They morph, adapt, fill and empty depending on our season and circumstances of life. If home is a place of contentment the demands of the world are easier to manage. If home is full of pain and turmoil, external success does not soothe the ache. I believe that at its very best home gives us a glimpse of what our hearts truly long for. We are all journeying through this life with a bit of homesickness. Deep down, our hearts recognize that we are created for a different world and we never fully settle in.
I have a place in my mind where I often retreat. At the end of a tree-lined lane is a beautiful stone bungalow with a large wrap around porch. The curving pathway welcomes you to the porch filled with flowers, plants and plump wicker furniture. The lighted windows and laughter filled voices beckon you inside where delectable fragrances waft from the kitchen. Those I love are there. I am wanted and loved in return. It is permanent and I won’t be counting days until I or another has to leave. I don’t expect to find that place here on earth. No matter how big, comfortable or dreamy our house is, we can never find full contentment in a building or in people, but in the one who spends our lifetime drawing us to Himself. We can try and make this world fit our image of a perfect home but it will always fall short. Our real home will be found when earth’s journey ends and eternity begins. It’s the place we are longed for, will be greeted enthusiastically, loved unconditionally, and finally, truly belong.
– Guest author: Jane Thompson
(The author and her husband have had the privilege of calling several countries around the world their ‘home’.)
(Photo credit: Yahoo Images)