“Home is the nicest word there is.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder

The idea of putting down roots and the importance of place has come up in a few conversations with my father over the past couple of years, and I still mull over it from time to time. The concept of “home” is a nebulous one to me. That nice little word connotes a sense of comfort, familiarity, steadfastness and true belonging. But what is it? And WHERE is it?

Of course, my parent’s house will always feel like home, in a sense. Yes, they’ve moved a couple of times since I was a child and when I go home to visit, I still have trouble finding measuring cups in the kitchen. And they’ve replaced most of the furniture I abused in my infancy, but their house still is an extension of themselves in a way that makes it homey to me.

When people ask me where I’m from, I name St. Louis as my home town, though that’s not technically correct (sorry, DuBois). And my college roommates would agree that the hermitage in the back of Olds and that corner room at the top of Mauck were as homey as such tiny, ugly, impersonal spaces could be. Hillsdale, though, for all its charms, was never home.

I’ve lived in Colorado Springs for nearly four years now: first in slanted, quirky “Victorian” that was advertised as having plenty of “personality” (unfortunately, it was the sort of personality that let horrible drafts in through the window casings and spewed sewage up the bathtub drain), next in a nice, decent downtown apartment that housed more than its fair share of parties back in my days as a single girl, and now in an even quirkier Victorian apartment with pheasants on the wall paper and a totem pole out front. I think Zach and I have made it into a pretty comfortable living space…but this can’t really be home, can it? No matter how nice the house is, I don’t think my real home can ever be in a place where the grass is brown from July to May.

So where is it going to be? I don’t know the answer to that question yet, but I’m eager to figure it out. One of Zach’s favorite blogs—The Art of Manliness–posted a thoughtful article on the subject today: The Importance of Where You Live. I’m a fan of this site, too. For all its emphasis on masculinity, it’s usually geared toward the good and worthy goal of living well.

I’m sure I’ll be revisiting this topic: it’s not one of those thought trains that ever really arrives at a station. In the meantime, enjoy this collection of thoughts on home from minds much better than my own:

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.”
— Robert Frost

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”
— C.S. Lewis (Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold)

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
— Charles Dickens

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.”
— Louisa May Alcott

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”
— James Joyce (Ulysses)

“Hogwarts was the first and best home he had known. He and Voldemort and Snape, the abandoned boys, had all found home here. ”
— J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

“We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes.”
— Madeleine L’Engle

“A home without a cat – and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat – may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?”
— Mark Twain

“She conceived of life as a road down which one traveled, an easy enough road through a broad country, and that one’s destination was there from the very beginning, a measured distance away, standing in the ordinary light like some plain house where one went in and was greeted by respectable people and was shown to a room where everything one had ever lost or put aside was gathered together, waiting.”
— Marilynne Robinson (Housekeeping)

“Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.”
— Jane Austen



Filed under Domesticity, Reading, Uncategorized, Writing

4 responses to ““Home is the nicest word there is.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder

  1. Richard Schamp

    So… just this morning, after visiting the dentist in our former neighborhood, I followed the lark that told me to turn onto Tealwood to see the former home again. I shouldn’t have been surprised as a wave of sentiment surged, carried along by thoughts of things built, parties held, flowers grown, people loved and lessons learned — a decade of life condensed into a moment of cruising slowly enough to earn a suspicious look. And the SLOW Children sign in front to possibly play havoc with somebody’s self esteem, but certainly not yours.

  2. Rebekah

    When I was a child I was very sick one time, and I kept saying to my mom, “I want to go home.” Crying hard enough she had trouble understanding me. I actually was home in my own bed–I was delirious. From time to time when I have felt particularly insecure I have found myself saying it over to myself: I want to go home. After a great deal of thought I realized I meant rest: I want to rest. I think ‘home’ is nearly synonymous with rest, in my mind: home is the place I feel at rest. It took a couple years, I think, but it is now my own home, with Caleb.

  3. Zach

    Home to me has always been either Elwell Street in the house where I grew up or Sault Ste. Marie where we lived for something like three months when I was in 2nd grade. For some reason those really formative memories have always stood out to me as being more fundamental than my experiences in Carson City or Clare where I actually spent the majority of my life.

    I know this is a needless digression, but I wonder how many different legitimate contenders there are for the “nicest” or “most beautiful” word in the English language.

    Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek suggests “sycamore”. William Dean Howells (or whomever he heard it from) proposes “cellar door” (a hyphenated compound at the time).

  4. Some are born into a home, some achieve a home through hard and intentional work, and some have a home thrust upon them in a place they never expected.

    That being said, I do believe that when you are /home/ – whether you’ve journeyed across the world to get there or created it where you already are – when you’re home, you know by how you feel.

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