Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Place to Call Home

Apart from rain when we first arrived and rain over the St. Demetrios weekend, the weather here has been sunny and warm. We’ve left all our sliding glass doors open (four of them leading to the wrap-around balcony) and have slept under a sheet. But lately we only open the doors and windows in the middle of the day. We turn on the radiators in the evenings and we sleep under a blanket. Some of the trees are turning brown; leaves are falling, betraying the nearness of winter. If we are to be cooped up by uninviting weather, at least it ought to be in a bigger house. Yes, it’s getting to be that time, time to depart. For home? Well, for Richmond.

When I was growing up in an Army family, it was exciting, adventurous, to move every year or two or three, to see new places and make new friends and sometimes re-encounter old ones. I loved it.

My grandmother used to tell the story of how, one day when I was six, she took me to Macy’s in New York City. Dad had just received orders to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and we children were staying with Grandma and Grandpa while our parents went house-hunting there. It was to be the first house we’d ever owned; before, we had always either rented or lived on post.

At Macy’s, Grandma took some lingerie into the fitting room and told me to sit right there on the floor and play with Alice and not move until she came back. So my doll and I were obediently and happily at play while Grandma took her time trying on girdles. After quite a while, some woman approached and the conversation, recounted afterward to Grandma, went something like this:

“Little girl, where’s your mother?”

“She’s in Oklahoma.”

“Oklahoma! Then where’s your father?”

“He’s in Oklahoma, too.”

(Nobody thought to ask about my Grandma, or I could have told them she was right here in the fitting room.)

“Your parents are in Oklahoma and have left you here?”


“Is Oklahoma where you’re from?”


“Well, then, where do you live?”


“Where’s your house?”

“I don’t have a house.”

“What, no home?”

By now, several other people had gathered around, I too engrossed with Alice or too young to perceive that they were all horrified. They were trying to figure out what to do with the poor little, abandoned, homeless child.

Grandma (who could have been the prototype of Hyacinth in “Keeping Up Appearances”) came back from the fitting room to find the little crowd moved almost to tears by what they took to be my bravery; I was trying to explain (still matter-of-factly, as I still did not perceive their distress), “We do have a home, we just don’t have a house to put it in.”

Many years later, when Grandma and Grandpa sold their house in New Jersey and moved to Florida, I realized their house had been the closest thing I’d ever had to a home, had been our permanent address, the place to which we always came back. My siblings and I (and our cousins) all missed it terribly. From then on, I longed for a place to put down roots, a place to call home.

Eventually God granted me to have Richmond for my home. I felt very blessed. Then Demetrios inherited this little flat in Thessaloniki from his mother and we began living here part of every year. I was twice blessed. Then Demetrios finally fulfilled the dream of his youth to return to Ormskirk, England, and we began living there part of the year as well. Despite my initial reservations, I soon began to feel at home in Ormskirk, too. (In fact, that flat is my favorite dwelling.) Thrice blessed, countless times blessed.

Now that our remaining days in Greece can be counted on our fingers and we say we’re getting ready to “go home”, I perceive this ironic truth: once again I no longer know where home is. You tell me home is where the heart is? My heart is all over the map.

Nowhere and yet everywhere is truly a place to call home.


elizabeth said...

love the story here; well, our eternal home I guess is our only real place, God willing; I understand having more than one home...

GretchenJoanna said...

I like the idea that a woman makes a home for her husband and family just by her loving presence there -- and it seems to me you are just that kind of woman, who creates Home by who you are, the way your grandparents did for you. And evidently your mother did as well, from what you told the crowd that day.

Your stories are the best. I can't get enough of them.

Matushka Anna said...

That is HILARIOUS. Love the story. (c: We've moved so many times that I consider Holy Protection Monastery to be our home.

DebD said...

what a funny story. I think you are thrice blessed too and we get to live vicariously through you.