My daughter recently published a blog post about the meaning of home. In it, she contemplates all of the various places she has called home, and what home means to her now that she has ventured out on her own. I was particularly struck by one thought in her piece: “Every time we become part of a community, part of our heart stays there.”
As I sit in my mother’s living room in Vermont this morning, looking out at the lake and the trees—which are losing their peak autumn color and will soon shed their leaves altogether with the approach of winter and the holiday season—I find myself reflecting not only on what it means to call a place home, but how it is that we choose to define family.
My family of origin, like so many, certainly had its share of issues, and that dysfunction clung to all of us no matter how hard we tried to shake it off or how far we ran to try to escape it. At some point, we seemed to reach a mutual agreement simply to ignore the herd of elephants crowding the room on the rare occasions that we gathered together. Then came illness and death, and a temporary shift in the dynamic as we all came together to stumble through our complicated grief.
When I sent my story out into the world a few years ago, it reopened old wounds, and while my intention was not to hurt my family but to help other women, my words did hurt some of my family members who did not want the parts of my story that overlapped with theirs to be told. Another rift—painful and long lasting.
But now we are all older still, which doesn’t mean wiser, but for me at least, means more reflective and forgiving—of myself and of others. What I crave at this point in my life is quiet connection. Over the years I have filled my family void with family of my own choosing, lifelong friends who, while not related by blood, have shared my highs and lows, gathered together for holidays, and provided a soft cushion when I needed a safe place to fall.
Yet whenever I am home in Vermont, I still crave connection with my family of origin, particularly those I have struggled to remain close with over the years. We cannot go back and right past wrongs. We can’t start over. Life isn’t that forgiving. However, I’d like to see my sister’s children—hug them, hold them close—let them know I love them. I would cherish that opportunity, even if it only lasted for a few moments. At this point in my life, that quiet, healing moment of simple human connection would be enough.