‘Home' Means A Lot More To Us Than We Sometimes Realize


I happened to notice that two or three recent columns shared a common theme--home.

When you write and that happens, it makes you think.

Why does it make you think?

Well, when you write you put a lot more than words down on paper; you put a lot of yourself down there too. So anytime you keep writing about the same thing it tells you that something is going on inside you.

It didn't take long to figure out what that something was. It was my concern about my beloved wife, Lolly, and how much her illness has affected our little home.

I'm not going to into all that here, though. I've shared a little of the love and joy that has filled our home over nearly half a century, wherever that home may have been. I'll let that suffice. The love is still there. Enough said. Instead, let's you and I look at a word which has apparently been very much on my mind over the past few weeks. Let's look at that word "home" and see if we can learn anything by doing it.

Like most common words, "home" has several meanings, but this isn't an English lesson so we won't talk about them--except for just one.

My favorite dictionary lists the third definition of that small but powerful word as, "...a place you want to be."

I ask you, were truer words ever said?

How much the six small words of that definition tell us about ourselves!

Think of the last time you were on your way back home. It doesn't matter whether it was from a long trip or a short one, or even just a run to the grocery store.

Think of how you felt as you got close to home. Oh, there probably wasn't anything dramatic going on. The angels weren't singing. Golden beams of sunlight were not bursting up off the horizon. Violins weren't playing in the background, or drums beating the air, with your heart beating in time to them.

Home is not that kind of word. It's more subtle than that, isn't it? Simpler.

More fundamental. Part of whatever it is that makes you, you, and me, me.

I think I can tell how you felt as you neared home, though.

As the road rolled by you began to see things that you thought of as yours.

The word "my" began to unconsciously enter your thoughts. My turnoff. My neighborhood. My street. And finally: My house.

And along with those thoughts came a feeling of rightness, of belonging, of being where you "want to be."

Is it any wonder that so many of us refuse to evacuate when the wildfires threaten? That we prefer to stay and fight? To do what we can to save a structure that is a lot more than just wood or stone with a few windows that could use a little washing?

And what do people say when they're burned out?

"We're moving somewhere else?"

"We're headed for someplace safe?"

No, they say the same thing that you and I would say.

Holding the few cherished scraps of their lives that they were able to save, and staring blankly at the charred remains of the rest, they take a deep breath, and lift their chins high, and say, "We're going to rebuild!"

Let me tell you how I first learned, as a young man of twenty-one, what a powerful word home is.

It happened this way:

Along with four good friends, all of us members of the same Air National Guard outfit that had been called up during the Korean War and sent to Iceland to allow regulars to go to Korea, I was on my way back to the United States on an Air Force transport bound for Westover Air Force Base up in Massachusetts.

We were a rough and tumble bunch, the five of us. I don't think a mushy thought had come out of any one of us in the year we'd been in Iceland, where we listened to the frigid sea wind howl across the top of our quonset hut, or breathed in nothing but ice, salt-laden air, or frowned at the dim glow of a sun that never rose more than few degrees above the horizon, or eyed the deep Prussian blue of the Arctic Ocean and the endless, wind driven, white-topped waves that separated us from the land where we were born.

Mushy ain't Air Force, you see.

And then the wheels of that transport touched down on that runway on a mid-June morning.

And someone opened the door as we taxied in.

I have never seen the expressions of four young men--five probably, but I couldn't see my own face--change so suddenly and completely.

Green growing things. Grass--newly mowed grass. And trees, leafed out and reaching toward the sun. And, somewhere not far away, blossoms laden with scented pollen....

Bob Pray, who always had a smile on his face during those twelve lousy months in Iceland, turned to me, and I swear he had tears in his eyes, though if I had said something about it he'd have belted me one.

"Garrett!" he said. "Do you smell that?"

And Hank Durfee, whose most endearing remark to me in twelve months had been, "Catch the ball, idiot!" turned to both of us and said, very quietly, "It smells like my backyard."

And then we were silent, all five of us, as we waited for the aircraft to come to a halt. The steps rolled up. We walked down them, the five of us and 42 other American men and women.

And at the bottom of steps we drew in the sights, and sounds, and smells of home.

You have never seen such smiles. You have never heard such happy, laughing voices.

Up to that moment I don't think any of us had realized what a certain small four letter word meant to us.

Home: A place you want to be.

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