Returning from vacation, I drive down the same roads, knowing each sharp turn and pothole. I know just when to press the gas and the perfect braking pattern to round the last turn. I pull into the garage and unload. Opening the door to the house, it creaks in the same way. A familiar smell arouses my senses.
At nighttime, I walk the darkened hallways, knowing the number of stairs to the top and the location of the end table. (I bumped into it too many times.) I don’t need the light. I am home.
Beyond these tangibles, home carries the familiarity of people and identity: the sound of Dad grinding coffee beans in the early morning, unmandated gatherings in the living room, memories. At home we rest not only our bodies but also our souls. We find solace in the familiar, unchanging nature.
What is home? A place? People? Friends? Family? Identity? Yes. But it is also something more, something that eludes description.
Wikipedia offers the paltry definition of a dwelling place and then provides the picture of a house. A house fails to fully describe a home. Wikipedia knows this and as a result attempts to supplement the incomplete with “popular sayings” about the concept: “Home is where the heart is.” “There’s no place like home.” “Home sweet home.”
We return to the initial question: What is home? And why do we so desperately want to go there? How?
In “The Odyssey,” Homer weaves the tale of Odysseus, a brave soldier returning to his homeland, Ithaca, after the ten-year Trojan War. On his journey he encounters enemies, mortal and immortal, who attempt to prevent his homecoming. Calypso, a seductive goddess, traps Odysseus on her island indefinitely with the provision of endless passion and paradise. Yet every day Odysseus, the weathered fighter, cries wrenching tears. Even in bliss he just wants to go home. Palm trees and lusty nights fail to fulfill that unfulfilled longing.
Calypso questions him. Is his wife superior to her in stature or beauty?
“No.” He assures her. “You, Calypso, are superior in every way.”
She questions his reasonings again. All Odysseus can provide is that he wants to go home because he wants to go home.
I want to go home. I miss home. And I know that this world is not it.
Is it possible to miss somewhere I have never been? Does my longing indicate an existence even if I cannot fully explain? Must I forget in order to remember? Must I look past the tangible elements that attempt to distract in order to see the intangible promise of home?
What is home? Where is it?
Why do you want to go there?
What distractions prevent you from wanting home?
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