Friday, November 20, 2015

There's No Place Like Home

“Where is home?” people occasionally ask while getting to know me. For me, that’s a loaded question! Every time it comes up, I make a split-second calculation—how much should I tell them?

You see, I’m an Army brat. Once you know that, you know an awful lot about me. If you didn’t grow up in the military, you can’t know how different this sub-culture is from the “civilian” culture. And we brats don’t need you to know, not most of the time, anyway. We know how to adapt, and that way you don’t have to know what we’re really like.

Yes, we move a lot. Well, anyway, brats of my vintage mostly moved a lot; these days things may be different. I moved less often than most brats, and I came back to the same places a couple of times, so I’m not the typical brat. Here’s what it looks like for me:
1956 Born in Fort Leavenworth, KS
1956-1962 Arlington, VA (kindergarten)
1962-1963 Newport, RI (first grade)
1963-1964 Babenhausen, Germany (second grade)
1964-1967 Frankfurt, Germany (third-fifth grades)
1967 Carlisle Barracks, PA (sixth grade)
1967-1970 Arlington, VA (sixth-eighth grade)
1970-1972 Frankfurt, Germany (two houses, ninth-tenth grades)
1972-1974 Arlington, VA (eleventh-twelfth grades)
1974-1978 Oberlin, OH (parents moved to Bozman, MD; I went to college)
1978-1980 Middletown, CT (two apartments, first real job; early marriage)
1981-1982 Oakland, CA (firstborn child)
1982-1984 El Sobrante, CA (second child)
1984-2007 Vienna, VA (two locations, two more children)
2007-2015 Broadway, VA (children grown and gone)
2015-present Front Royal, VA

That’s 20 different houses, apartments, dorm rooms, whatever, not including my parents’ house, which was only a place to stay for a couple of summers. (My experience is less mobile than it could be. Most brats have moved more often than that and didn’t bounce between two places, as I did.) Each place was “home,” but none was a deep-down home, calling to me.

Sometimes I wake up and remember that I dreamed about home again. When I dream of going home, it’s always a dream of trying to buy the house in Arlington. I lived there for 11 years in three stints. In my dreams, somebody has changed the house in some odd way, and I can’t afford to buy it, but I keep trying. And that’s funny, because I don’t want to live there. Still, I was very annoyed when I looked up the house for this blog post and found that the owners had recently added a front porch. What the heck? Don’t they know that that house is perfect just as it is? How dare they? This picture shows what the house should look like; it’s from only a few years ago.

“Home” mostly been northern Virginia. That’s what I know best. I get a sense of home when I think about Germany, too. I spent six happy childhood years there. It’s kind of a bittersweet “home” feeling, because I grew up living in an American community, and everything American there that I knew has been given back to the Germans. No hard feelings, mind you; that was the right thing for the US to do. I just can’t go to that “home” again. See what it looks like near my old high school?

Vienna, VA, was “home” for the longest period of time, but my husband and I kind of outgrew it. By the time our children were in high school, we knew we wanted more space than a quarter of an acre in a heavily regulated town. (Our neighbors called the police whenever our dogs barked for longer than a couple of minutes or our grass grew longer than the prescribed maximum of six inches. Really.) I couldn’t find a picture of this house from when we lived in it, but it looked a lot like this.

We moved to a wonderful old farmhouse on three acres, and we loved it. But my husband had been sick for years, and he unexpectedly died after we’d lived in that house for six years. I started to feel that I didn’t have much purpose rattling around in that house by myself, especially after our youngest child finally found a permanent job in DC and moved out. It was an answer to prayer when my younger daughter and her family asked me to move with them midway between DC and my beloved farmhouse. I’m winding up that move now. It’s taking much longer than it should; it’s hard for me to throw away years of memories and leave the last home that my husband and I had together, where we had intended to live out the rest of our lives. (Well, at least he got to!)

I live in a cozy four-room house behind the main house now. It’s really a perfect situation; I get to be with my daughter’s family most of the time, and I just love those five adorable kids! (See—what’s not to love?) It doesn’t feel completely like home yet, which is to be expected, of course. After so many years of making a home with my husband, it’s odd to be back in the situation of being a dependent again. Plus I still own the farmhouse (anybody interested in buying a lovely peaceful place in the Shenandoah Valley?), so I don’t really have closure on that part of my life yet.

“Home” is a tough concept for me to get my mind around. I understand it intellectually, and I see how it works for most people. But for me, well, I’ll never quite understand that longing that Dorothy felt when she clicked her heels and murmured, “There’s no place like home.”

This post is part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by Julie Walsh of These Walls. During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers will share about what the concept of “home” means to them. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls 
November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb 
November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress 
November 16 – Rita @ Open Window 
November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls 
November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow 
November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365 
November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing 
November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels 
November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room 
November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes 
November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life 
November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family 
November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons


  1. Totally doesn't look like our old house! Sad that they ripped out the azaleas...

    1. Yes, and they changed the color of the siding and shutters, too. I know they cut down the apple tree, which I totally understand, but I hope they didn't cut down the blueberries, too; I can't tell from this picture.