Becoming Re-acquainted with Home
Having grown up in the States, summertime for me has always been a time of travel, of outdoor adventures and excursions, of basking in the glories of earth’s most robust expression of the year. It’s been a time to kick off the old shoes and run through the long grass winding along the sparkling shore. A time when being indoors somehow feels like a waste of something greater that is happening.
Yet with the onset of autumn comes cooler moments-crisp and clean, gradually drawing us inward to the hearth. We dive back into the safety and dependency of routines and programs, settling in around the kitchen table to pour over homework and the evening meal.
It would seem at the heart of autumn is a calling. It is a calling to step out of the intrepid moments we’ve been chasing after and step into moments that usher us back to the center. A time to zero in our focus. A time to become reacquainted with home.
For my family and me, this past summer was unusual in that we spent it Stateside instead of in Kenya where we normally reside. We closed out our time in Colorado as the summer was singing its swan song. We headed back to our routines and programs in Kenya just as the school year was getting underway. Although Kenya does not feature the same seasons that Colorado does, I have found my heart still beats to the rhythms of the four seasons and our home has always been a reflection of that wherever in the world we’ve lived.
This year I felt as though I snagged a bit of autumn and snuck it back with us. Yes, I had a tiny piece tucked away, a whisper of a calling to return and become reacquainted with Home.
A Challenging Reintroduction to Home
My girls and I were sitting down to start homework the other night and I knew I had my work cut out for me. Trying to get back into routine while working with a 4th grader and a 2nd grader at the same table is something I’m still trying to master, to be honest. And in the brief intervals when my husband is out of town, solo-parenting can present even more challenges. This was one of those times.
I started working with each kiddo on their respective assignments when a text came in on my phone. “We should be home in about 2 hours.” Wait, WHAT?? Hang on. You’re not due in until tomorrow afternoon. I need to get the house a little tidier…I still need to get the “Welcome Home” sign up…the house smells like sweaty princess dresses and rancid sparkles, I need to light some candles, for goodness sake!! AHHH!
Now, to clue you in a bit to how my brain functions…when we moved overseas and my husband began traveling for significant lengths of time, as in 1-3 weeks at a time, a new reality was set for me and the kids. It was a reality that either I would crumble under or I would learn to cultivate within. I chose to cultivate. So, the girls and I developed our own rhythms and routines while he was away. Always FaceTime with Daddy (if possible) before bed, always have Princess Night the first weekend night of his trip, always make a favorite meal of his when he comes home, always put up the “Welcome Home” sign day of, and always have the house in clean, working order when he returns. Now, I know some of that sounds pretty 1950’s housewife of me. But honestly, there’s a reason behind each of those rhythms and it has nothing to do with anyone’s place in the family or the home. It all has to do with cultivation. What we cultivate with each of those rhythms – connectedness, identity, being known, being planned for, and being missed.
Well, I’ve grown so accustomed by now to those rhythms and the true need for what they communicate that truthfully, I didn’t really get my feathers ruffled at the text. The thought of, “Oh, he’s getting in early I guess he’ll just have to come home to it being the way it is” didn’t even materialize in the old synapses’ here. It could have and our home wouldn’t have been the lesser for it, probably. But what fired off in my head was, “WHAT?? … Ok, game on. I can do this in an hour and a half, juggling homework simultaneously with two monkeys of varying sizes, getting the house in welcoming order, and finishing up dinner.” And like a shot, I was up!
The kids looked at me funny because I wasn’t staying seated through homework but I told them not to worry, I was just going to run around and tidy up a few things while we went through spelling. I really wanted this to be a surprise for them and didn’t want to disrupt their routine any more than it was about to be. So, they shrugged and kept at it.
I bustled around putting little knick-knacks away, straightening cushions, putting up the sign, all while shouting spelling words over my shoulder. (Don’t judge me…). A singular focus had taken over and I was getting the girls successfully through their assignments as I was silently materializing the culture of our home, of the values we’ve established living abroad.
As soon as homework and prepping the house were done, I set about finishing up dinner. My 9 year old said she was going to work on a project she’d just thought of and headed off to her room with a stack of scrap paper. I was stirring the roasted pumpkin, mushroom and chive soup and flipping the grilled cheese and salami sandwiches when she came in with a determined look on her face. I set down the steaming spatula as she cleared her throat. She called her little sister in and proceeded to introduce us to her “Welcoming Plan” for when Daddy and our dear friend and colleague who was visiting from the States would get in…tomorrow.
The Surprising Plan
My littlest one and I listened intently as she described and then demonstrated in detail, exactly how we were to say, “Welcome Home”, emphasizing the amount of enthusiasm needed (as in the all CAPS, multiple exclamation points kind of enthusiasm…). She went on to explain how saying it in such a way would make them feel (on a scale of Meh to pure elation of the highest order), and completed it with an actual graph. But it didn’t stop there…she then had drawn an illustration of exactly where everyone would be standing for maximum impact. Finally, it was time to…”practes”. Which we did 3 times as specifically instructed.
We sat down to dinner with her continuing to explain the sheer importance of this. How everyone needed to feel truly Welcomed when they came home after a trip. She didn’t say it in so many words but I knew what she was getting at was that everyone needed to feel truly loved, missed and like they belonged and that was communicated (in her young, astute mind) in how those waiting responded to them coming home. In her mind no matter how long someone has been off chasing adventures, there is always a time when they need to return and become reacquainted with home. I smiled to myself as I nibbled on my grilled cheese, counting down the minutes to when this plan was either going to be thrown into immediate effect or would be shot to smithereens by the immense surprise of it all.
The deep and distinctive rumblings of our diesel truck started low as they came careening through the gate and within seconds, as recognition set in, complete chaos ensued. Chairs were flung back, the beloved soup & grilled cheese forgotten as my eldest screamed, “Daddy’s home EARLY!!!!” I looked at her, feigning equal surprise and said, “What do we DO??” She stopped mid-freak out, and with a determined glint forming in her eye she declared, “Places everyone.”
The Moment of All Moments
Well, the grand moment didn’t translate from paper to reality exactly to the letter. There was a lot of internal combusting, high-pitched squealing, little girls flinging themselves forward, Daddy’s being flung backwards but there was a whole lot of love, warmth, excitement and definitely a whole lot of Welcoming that was successfully translated. Really, it was all the exclamation points of The Plan with not so many of the words.
As I was describing the scene to a friend the next day, I mentioned that after things calmed down, my oldest said that she had a feeling they were going to get home early but she didn’t know why she felt that way. To which my friend said, “See, she was subconsciously clueing in on everything you were doing in the background during homework.” And in that moment I realized yet again, the importance, the necessity of why I do this each time. This is why we have the rhythms that we do in our home. It isn’t to make a grand event out of something perhaps mundane. It isn’t to play the perfect little house wife. It’s to foster something deeper.
Home to some may equate to just bricks and mortar. But in my experience of living abroad, having to reinvent Home when bricks and mortar no longer encapsulate what they used to, Home is what we ourselves emulate to those around us, either consciously or subconsciously. It is what we cultivate, what we daily materialize, no matter our age. It is the values embedded deep inside that are lived out in each of us. And the quality of that is what lingers long after those around us are gone, for better or for worse. What we materialize today is what lasts in those with whom we live life. In essence, that is the heart of the Home that faces every test of time and circumstance this world dishes out. That is the Home that we we need to become reacquainted with.
That is the Home we carry with us no matter where in the world we go.
Originally posted as “Home is What Home Does” on pahtyanamoore.com. See website for accompanying images.
The featured image above is a glimpse of Jordan Durbin’s beautiful pottery series –
Honey and Cream –
and was photographed at House on the Way.
You can find more of Jordan’s beautiful pottery at her Etsy store here.