“Going Home,” Jan. 31, 2017

We were sitting around a table in a borrowed house (thank you, Lynn and Phil) eating a take-out dinner (thank you, Tarpey’s) and laughing (thank you, Lord.)

My husband and I had driven from our home in Las Vegas, to Monterey, Calif., a place we once called home. My daughter and her husband and their 5-year-old, Henry, live nearby and joined us for dinner to celebrate the birthday of my oldest, who drove up from L.A.

The house where we were staying didn’t belong to us. But as I looked around that table at those people I love, and saw the smiles on their faces and the light in their eyes, this thought filled my mind and my heart and my soul: “We are home.”

What do you see if you close your eyes and picture “home”?

For me, it’s a beautiful mess of faces and places, sights and sounds, tastes and feelings and a whole lot of memories. It all began with my grandmothers.

My mother’s mother lived in a cracker box house on the main street of a small Southern town. We’d sit in a swing on her porch, she and I, watching the parade of life passing on the road: Old people driving slow, waving like friendly snails. Kids dangling off the backs of pickups. Dogs’ heads hanging out the windows.

We played a game answering questions: Where were all those people going? Had they been shopping? What did they buy? How much did they pay for it?

It wasn’t much of a game, but somehow, imagining the lives of strangers made me feel more at home.

My dad’s mother lived on a farm in the mountains, where the parade of life was Nature. Whenever I came to visit, we would walk for miles, picking berries, dodging snakes, wading barefoot in a creek, feeling the sun on our faces and the wind in our hair.

Some of us share a kinship with mountains and rivers and dirt that is as real and binding and nurturing as any connection we share with flesh and blood.

Thanks to my grandmothers, I learned to feel at home in two very different worlds. One was quiet and serene. (My older sister couldn’t stand it.) The other bustled with traffic and bristled with drama from my mother and her eight sisters.

But in both of those places, I felt wanted and safe and at peace. Most of all, I felt like myself. Home is a place where you get to be yourself _ your best self _ and to know that you belong.

It helps, of course, if you like the food. My grandmothers didn’t cook the same things in the same ways. It didn’t matter. Cornbread or biscuits, pinto beans or black-eyed peas, fried chicken or stewed venison, banana pudding or peach cobbler. It all tasted good to me.

But even the best home cooking is only as good as the people with whom you share it. I was lucky. I loved the peace and serenity of the mountains. But I also loved the “fistfight in an outhouse” pandemonium that dogged my mother and her sisters like a hound on a hunt.

Growing up in those two worlds, with the help of two very different, but equally wonderful women, taught me to be at home in any kind of weather, in the storm, as well as the calm. It was the gift of a lifetime, and I will be forever grateful.

Home isn’t the place where you sleep at night, or the address where you get your mail. It’s a place in your head and your heart and in your soul. You carry it with you wherever you go.

I have tried to teach that to my children, and I hope to teach it to my grandchildren.

I want them always to feel at home when they look into my eyes. To hear it in the laughter of family and friends. To taste it in the food they share with someone they love. But most of all, I want them to see it when they look in the mirror.

Home is a big place with room for us all. I will meet you there.


  1. I now live in Ohio but grew up in Iowa. I always loved going back and could never exactly explain why. There wasn’t much to do there but you said it perfectly-“it was a place I felt wanted, safe and at peace and most of all, I could be myself”. Thank you for putting in words what I’ve been trying to figure out. My parents have both passed and I don’t get back there much but it was “home”.

  2. Kate Sciacca says

    Hmmm…. we tried Tarpys (I think it was Tarpys Road House?) once… it was quite tasty ? Funny how you speak of “home” – more than anything else I wanted my kids to have a deep sense of home, family, safety, security and a certain “predictable-ness.” Things got messy at times (literally and figuratively) but my prayer is that when they close their eyes they recall mostly carefree and happy days… and remember seeing mom at the stove with a baby in her arms ?… and telling the older ones to entertain the younger ones or “no one is getting any dinner!” Ahh… those were the days ?
    PS – hardly seems possible that a year has gone by since you began “self-syndicating” – Congrats to you on a great first year!

  3. Home sweet home! Home is a place where we feel at home. Recently I used best plane ever to fly to India and back home to USA via Dubai. For 13 hours we spent best time with family. I slept 5 hours as well. Played and talked. It was a home for 13 hours. Thank you for sharing your views. It is good as always!!

  4. It’s a shame porches have, for the most part, disappeared. Now we have decks…on the back of the house. No traffic or people to be seen. Our front porch was the best. We would sit with my mom playing Riddly Riddly Randy, I See Something Dandy, and the color of it is____! We would guess until we saw Dad’s car come down the street and park. Then, dinner and back on the porch to watch neighbors, family, friends walk by on the way to the ball field next to our house. It was and is still home for me.

  5. Marcy Terry says

    Sitting on the squeaky porch slider swing on hot Sacramento nights in the1940’s, watching cars go by, trying to guess the year and make of the cars because my older (9 years older) brother knew everything. Some of the cars were pre-war and then none until 1945 after the war. Thanks for your column. You make my day every time I read your mind. 🙂

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