Family, Monday Musings, Random DJB Thoughts
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Home is …

As of this weekend I’ve lived in the Washington region for twenty-five years, longer than in any other community. Does that matter? Well, if you are from the South, it is important to be able to answer certain questions. “Where are you from?” is the most important followed closely by, “Who are your people?” Both are questions about home. Some also ask, “Are you saved?” Southerners, bless their hearts, have a need to ground themselves in place, history, family, and religion. It is both a blessing and a curse.

When asked, this Tennessee native always replies “Murfreesboro” to the first question. Yes, I was born in Cookeville and raised in Murfreesboro but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. My people are from Franklin, although technically, mother was born on a farm in Wilson County. And knowing I might disagree with the religious beliefs of those asking the third question, I’m likely to paraphrase Thomas Merton and say, “If you have all the answers, its proof you are asking the wrong questions.”

That last one would depend upon how feisty I felt in the moment.

So, is Washington now home? The quick response to my own question was an emphatic “no.” But it only took a moment of reflection before I realized that the answer is more complex.

Thoughts of home usually bring a birthplace or long-time residence to mind. But do we become homeless when we move? Thomas Moore describes home as “an emotional state, a place in the imagination where feelings of security, belonging, placement, family protection, memory, and personal history abide.”

As a preservationist, I’m not ready to settle entirely into an emotional state, but I clearly need to think more deeply about home.


Mom and Dad, with their growing family, lived in five different houses in Cookeville. In 1966 we moved to Murfreesboro and in 1969 my parents bought 407 E. Main Street when grandmother came to live with us. They were in this house for two decades.

My brothers and sisters were all Cookeville-born/Murfreesboro-raised, but our lives took very different paths. To start this exploration, I asked them what comes to mind when they think of home.

DJB (left) with Debbie, Steve, Carol, and Joe (l-r) — December 2015

Steve, an arts administrator in Florida, said simply,

Home is where my wife is.

Debbie, now retired from local government, responded with Murfreesboro — “as I’ve lived here for 56 years” — then added,

Home is a place for family to feel secure. A place to carry on traditions and to pass along family memories to my children and grandchildren. Home is not just a house or city but it’s the people who share it with you.

Home for Joe, the artist blacksmith, is the log house on Cripple Creek, where he and his wife Kerry, who passed away six years ago, lived. Full of memories, joy, tears, heartache, and at times loneliness, this home now “yearns for new purpose as my friends come and share it with me when we seek a deeper relationship with God.”

My home has a new life and I pray it will harbor many more times of joy, laughter, and encouragement, but this home is only temporary till God calls me “Home”.

Carol, the librarian and retired Baptist missionary, has blogged about home. She was raised on East Main and loves that place, but in recent years her view has changed. Each of the more than six countries where she has lived carries a sense of home with accompanying memories. But her “true home is not in this world.”

I’ve become a stranger in a strange land, not only because I’ve moved in and out of countries and cultures, but because any home I have here on this earth is a temporary residence. Just as that house on East Main gave me a taste of “rest,” Christ’s promise of a heavenly home is where I know true rest will be, and that’s home to me. 


407 E. Main Street
Staunton, Virginia

Home for me transcends place and time. Tied to memory and identity, it is intertwined with the cycle of life.

Madeleine L’Engle once wrote that she was still every age she had ever been. Similarly, I am home in places from across the years where I feel understood and loved, even with all my faults and foibles.

Home includes 407 E. Main, with its memories across multiple generations: sounds, smells, laughter, crying, loss, discoveries, birth, death. Each Thanksgiving also brings us home to Staunton, where Candice and I began our married life and our family became one. The welcoming embrace of place and friends mixes memories with present joys and sorrows.

In March we’ll celebrate our anniversary, and part of my soul will be at home as we return to the evocative landscape at Mohonk Mountain House. I look at the photographs on the wall here in Silver Spring and realize that these are the choices I’ve made and the people I’ve loved. Yes, this is home as well.

35th anniversary dinner
Celebrating an anniversary at a snowy Mohonk Mountain House

No one really knows what a future home will hold. The old blues song — Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die — speaks to our uncertainties. C.S. Lewis reminds us that there is nothing biblical about the comforting images of “family reunions on the further shore.” L’Engle says we must recognize that we simply do not know. “It is not in the realm of proof. It is in the realm of love.”

Just another passage in an ongoing journey, death is when I arrive — warts, imperfections, and all — into a home intertwined in some unknowable way with familiar, sacred, yet perfectly ordinary places. That home may be here now; in a reality I can’t yet see.

The places we call home are remarkable, challenging, and full of contradiction. Home is where we love, connecting with others and setting down deep roots. Home stretches across time as a journey. Yes, home is a paradox, but all truth is paradox.

Considering the complexity of all its dimensions, home is in the realm of love. Which seems just right to me.

More to come…

DJB


Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

This entry was posted in: Family, Monday Musings, Random DJB Thoughts

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I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.

4 Comments

  1. Here are the houses we lived in during our time in Cookeville. Steve came home to 250 W. Fifth Street while my parents moved to 54 Stout Street when I came along. They built the first house they owned (for $10,400) at 1365 E. 9th Street when Debbie was born, which was also Joe’s first house. We had built 1124 Meadow Road and moved — on the weekend JFK was assassinated — when Carol came on the scene.

    • A former colleague and long-time friend posted the following on my LinkedIn page:

      “Loved this bit in particular, David. It’s something I like to think about, although it’s hard for me to grasp… ‘Just another passage in an ongoing journey, death is when I arrive — warts, imperfections, and all — into a home intertwined in some unknowable way with familiar, sacred, yet perfectly ordinary places. That home may be here now; in a reality I can’t yet see.’”

      I responded that I didn’t grasp it either, although in reading both Pico Iyer’s new book on the search for paradise and C.S. Lewis’s book on grief, I’m learning more about this concept of home. Lewis in particular talks of all our competing notions of life and he writes that he comes back to the sense that “some shattering and disarming simplicity is the real answer.”

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