What home means to me:
Doug and I have been together for fourteen years, and have lived in five places in Ann Arbor, one place in Berkeley and one in Oakland California, eight places in Sydney and one in San Francisco—all renting except for buying a two bedroom apartment in downtown Sydney. Not sure what the problem is, but my mom and sister have stopped writing my address down in ink years ago! So when I thought of what home means to me, I couldn’t think of a specific place. I can, however, think of a specific person who makes me feel like wherever we live, home is there. Of course this is Doug and I do have to include Zak our cat who has been our trusty companion for the last ten years.
Just because there are no places I can think of that we have lived in that I feel have been home (except for the Sydney apartment) doesn’t mean I don’t get a homey feeling when I think of different places like my parent’s and sister’s house; our friends Sara and Steve’s place, or Doug’s parents house.
But the main place that really sticks out in my head when I think of home is a place I can no longer visit. This is my grandparent’s farm in Algonac Michigan. Every summer growing up (and even into my twenties in college) I would spend at least two weeks with my grandparents – more if I could beg my parents to let me stay longer. Those summers were spent playing in the sun with my numerous cousins who mostly all lived flocked around my grandparents. Being a weird kid, I would love to grab the hoe and I would spend hours out hoeing the (what seemed like) endless rows of corn, being very careful not to cut the stalks off in my eagerness to kill the weeds. I can still smell the hot black dirt and the smell of those freshly cut weeds. My other love (related to the first) was working in the garden with my grandfather. He wouldn’t say very much, but boy did I love plucking those nasty potato bugs off the plants with him and cutting piles of rhubarb for my grandmother who made the most amazing rhubarb jam I have ever tasted. There was also nothing better than eating hot tomatoes off the vines. The farm also included a pond, which was really the focal point for all the cousins. I don’t think I would be remembered by my cousins as a social kid since my favourite thing to do at the pond was to lay on a plastic raft with my goggles and fins and just let the breeze take me wherever. I loved watching the fish but was also terrified of them too. When I was little I would also bring down my microscope with me and take samples and watch all the little paramecium and whatever else was living in the water. One year I also took temperatures of the water at various distances from the surface. I guess even back then I was a bit of a science nerd!
I also loved the farmhouse they still live in. It had a scent that would instantly make me feel as though I were home and belonged there. The house even had a parlour, which was pretty scary when I was little because my grandmother would tell me they used to have funerals in there. The walls of the entire first floor were covered in wood that had many dark knots in it that when daydreaming you could make out many faces. It also had an organ that I would love to play. I am certain that that organ seat to this day has an imprint of my 10 year old butt—I was swimming in the pond, came back to the house and sat, still in my wet bathing suit, on the wooden bench that held all the music. I don’t think my grandmother was upset, and if she was, she never said a thing to me. But I felt horribly guilty that I might have disappointed her.
Speaking of her, I have to say the main reason why I loved going to my grandparents is my grandmother. I loved doing things for her like washing the dishes or hanging out the laundry on the line. It would smell so amazing after it had dried in the hot sun. She would always make me feel very special and I can’t even think of how she did it. Maybe it was just the way she would chat to me about different things, like when she was growing up with her aunt instead of her mother or introducing me to her sisters or showing me pictures of her growing up.
If you recall, I said this was a place I can no longer visit. After I met Doug I was still going to my grandparents as often as I could. I took Doug there with me as well and although I never said anything specific about my relationship with him, they must have known. A case in point is that they had us both sleep in the same bed in the parlour when we went to visit… Anyway, when Doug and I decided to have a small ceremony to exchange rings, I didn’t think for a moment that my grandparents wouldn’t be there. I sent them an invitation as well as to all my numerous aunts and uncles and cousins inviting them. Not only didn’t they come, but they never bothered even responding. My grandparents, whom I adored, told my parents that they didn’t want to hear about my life with Doug. Boy, was that a shock that took me years to get over. I am not certain how many letters I have written to them about this, but never have I gotten a response. Now they are both in their 80’s and becoming very frail. They still live on the farm in that amazing house which for me was a second home while growing up. I still buy Palmolive soap because it reminds me of standing at her kitchen sink, looking out the window onto the field and washing dishes. It seems strange to think of "Home" as being a place I cannot go to…