Both my boys are agreed: home is a place where you live. Ryan adds that it’s the place where you eat most of the time. In the simplest sense, of course, both my boys are right. This big old white house in Small Town, Iowa, is where we come home to after a day at work, a morning of errands, or a weekend away. It holds our beds, our clothes, our stuff. Here we park our van, here we laugh around the table, here we read and play and clean and relax. And, of course, here we eat.
A couple weeks ago I referred to my parents’ house as home, which really confused Ryan. I remember feeling that confusion as a child, when my parents would talk about a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house as going “back home.” To me, as a child, home was a big square white house on Main Street. Strangely enough, fourteen years since we moved out of that house, it still embodies much of what I think of as home.
If it’s true that home is where the heart is, then my home is currently spread all across the country and beyond.
My home is in that box of house in Wisconsin, where a bit of my heart still resides in memories of joyful Christmases, lasting friendships, lost teeth, and birthday parties.
My home is in a little gray house in Omaha, where my heart regularly returns for laughter and encouragement from my parents. I only lived there for a few years before I came to Iowa for college, and to be honest, the memories made since moving out– memories of weddings and babies and family– are sweeter than the memories made when I actually lived there. But where my parents are will always be a bit of home to me.
Which explains why this week I have been homesick for a place I have never actually called home. My parents have been out East, back home, and my heart has been there with them– catching up with family, boating on Trout Lake, exploring the woods. Last fall we took the boys to see those beautiful places of my childhood, but it wasn’t home without everyone there. Family is what makes a place home.
My home, just a small place to rest my heart, is in a tiny campus apartment, where we spent five years of our lives together. I brought my babies home to that apartment, and my heart rests there now and then when I suddenly am forced to notice just how big those babies have become.
My home, just a tiny little spot where I go now and then, is in another small apartment, one that smelled like cigarettes and sounded like the neighbor’s alarm clock going off every morning and felt like snow coming through the front door. It was our first home as husband and wife, and even though it was awful in so many ways, it is still precious to my heart.
A bit of my heart lives in Nevada, in a home I have never seen, where the voices and footsteps of my sister’s family ring through the rooms. And another bit of my heart lives in Pennsylvania with two little nieces I do not have nearly enough opportunity to spoil.
And then there is this big old white house in Small Town, Iowa. It’s not home because I live here. It’s home because they live here. He, with his blond hair and missing teeth and constant chatter, he is where my heart is. He, with his fuzzy brown head and round cheeks and love of mischief, he is where my heart is. And he, with his crooked smile and his gentle spirit and his patience with my many imperfections, well he has had my heart for a third of my life now. And they are what make this creaky, messy, noisy old place home.
My heart has one other home, and each day it yearns a little more for that place. My grandparents are there, and my little cousin who died at birth. My great-grandmother, who made the best cookies in the universe, and my great uncle who carved the most beautiful birds. My own precious son, whose birthday could have been today, if he hadn’t gone to a different and far better home. And my wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ, who promised that He would prepare a place for me there. And even though right now my heart calls so many places home, someday I will rest, there in heaven, with those who I love so dearly, and my heart will not be divided again.
That’s when I’ll know I’m home.