“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye
This is such a simple picture, and yet it brings back a flood of memories for me, even though it was taken on a day when I’m sure I wasn’t even there. My dad was the only one in his family who made his living by farming. His siblings were teachers and nurses and professionals, and ended up living in towns and cities. And all of them – every one – came to visit him and mom here with their families. If they hadn’t, we would never have known all our aunts and uncles and cousins so well, because running a farm means almost never getting away for trips much longer than a day. But if the relatives wanted to come and stay? They were welcomed with open arms. We had lots of room and the doors were always open. No offer of help was every refused. You might end up peeling the potatoes or shelling the peas for your dinner, but you never went away hungry.
The garage is on the far left, then dad, mom, the window to the den, Aunt Lorna, the main door, Aunt Marie, the edge of the big kitchen window, extra lawn chairs, a strange looking wooden whirly decoration that twisted in the breeze, flower beds gone wild. That little thing hanging on the bricks that resembles a bird house is a box that held a pencil and some notepaper. On it was written “If at home you do not find us, leave a note that will remind us.” I once pointed out to my mother that it didn’t make any sense. If you were away from home, surely you knew that already and didn’t need a reminder of it. I was just being a mouthy teenager. But I still think the message is stupid. And I don’t know why I’ve never forgotten it.
The view to the west was of maple trees bordering the laneway, the bank down to the pond, and fences and fields as far as you could see. Those numerous round white dots that look like holes are actually real holes in the photograph. It’s been pinned up to a cork board and shuffled around a lot, stuffed in a box, lost for awhile. And then it made its way to me. In this shot it looks like the veranda floor has had some repairs and a new coat of paint. I remember it being a steely blue grey with loose boards you could lift up and hide things under. I don’t remember dad ever saying he was tired of nailing them back down.
It’s a summer afternoon, dinner is over, the dishes have been washed and put away, and it’s just too nice to sit inside. If there are kids around, they’re off climbing trees or throwing sticks for the dog, or gathering firewood for the bonfire in the backyard after the sun goes down. I can almost hear dads voice, saying something profound in a lazy off-hand manner. Mom saying “Oh, Hank”, and laughing, Aunt Lorna’s droll observations (we never knew if she meant to be funny or not) and Aunt Marie’s infectious giggles.
The farm was sold years ago. We drove by it last October and saw the changes. The front veranda has been closed in, the barn is being torn down, the gigantic garden has gone to grass. The house is so old I’m surprised it’s still standing. It’s just another old building to me now. It hasn’t been ”home” for a very long time.
And yet in my heart it will always be home whenever I remember all the people who were part of it, and who made it come so alive with laughter and fun. I’ve had a lot of homes in my life and I carry parts of every one of them with me. The pictures in my head are as vivid as the real ones. I can visit them anytime I choose, simply by remembering the people I loved who lived there with me, and loved me back.
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