There are many, many versions of “what is home”. It is where you hang your hat; where your heart is; where your dog is; where they have to take you in (thank you Robert Frost). And so on and so forth. If you were to google quotes for “home”, I am sure there would be a whole lot of them. But what is it really, beyond the trite cliches; whatever seed of truth they may have.
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I recently had a taste of what a truly empty nest would be when my college student son, who is getting ready to leave home for good, was gone for about ten days. The background here is that I separated/divorced about two and a half years ago, after roughly twenty seven years. At that time my son had come back home to finish college after having left for two or so years. His presence was and has been a blessing as I have travelled through this weird and unexpected transition. But when he was gone for those ten days, the emptiness of my home struck me, hard.
As I worked through the feelings I realized that home, for a long time was the place I created for others. Now mind you I am a nestbuilder, having lived almost nowhere for more than five years in my entire life, but that is an analysis for another time. For twenty five years give or take, home is the place I created for my son, for my husband, for a family. Now the son is leaving (and taking the dog), the husband is gone. So home has to be what I create for myself.
Home is about habits and routines. And for just me, the habits and routines are very different than they were for family. I eat at different times, I sleep at different times, I do laundry at different times, I grocery shop at different times. My life is no longer circumscribed by family life, only by work and my own wants and needs.
But that realization wasn’t immediate. What was immediate was the awful feeling of coming home, for the first time in almost 30 years, to a dark and empty house. No other car in the drive, the outside lights not on to welcome me home, no dog wagging a stump so happy to see me, no other living soul. The house had a very different feel despite the fact that I have lived here longer than anywhere ever and it is very familiar. I cried. Not sure why or for what. And each day it got a little easier, a little more “normal”. I could park in the middle of the driveway, not worrying about leaving space. I remembered to put out the trash. I grocery shopped for just me. And each day it got a little easier.
My son is back, but working on his own transition and will soon be gone. I am thankful for the crazy cats, they still greet me and are happy to see me, mostly. But I know when he goes this time, it will be a little easier, a little more familiar, a little more “normal”. I know that home, now, is what I create for myself, finally.