Coming home

Published 10:51 pm Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It’s the time of year when folks come home. From across the street, across the river, across the state and across the country. From even across the ocean.

Individual homes send out particular calls that only those who have shared in its history can hear. It draws them back to their origins, the womb of their history. For you come back to:

* That particular scent of your house when you were growing up. You never really noticed it way back then, but now that you’ve been away it conjures up, like a magician, all sorts of memories.

n Getting met at the front door by someone who has loved you forever. They loved you when your diapers needed changing and when you cried all night. When you lost your tonsils and lost the ball game. When you had a broken leg and a broken heart. Why, they even loved you when you didn’t love yourself.

* Mom’s cooking. The way she fried chicken and the way she made biscuits. How she cooked chocolate chip cookies just right. Her fudge and her banana pudding and her potato salad and her black-bottom pie. Why, just eating cereal out of those same old bowls seems to make it taste better.

* A house full of reminders of your past. Over there is the chair that always squeaked. In there is that kitchen that seemed never to be without your mom and there’s the kitchen table that seems to say “Here’s where you sat.” In the back yard is that same tree from which your dad broke a switch to teach you a lesson about treating your sister right. There’s that old picture of your grandparents. It’s just a little more faded. Back in the corner of the yard is where you buried your dog and beside that tree is where your sand pile was.

* Your bed. It slept a certain way and squeaked a certain sound that no other bed ever has. At night the light came into the room just right. And the sounds that you could hear while lying in that bed. The shower running. Steps down the hall. Your sister’s radio. Cars going by.

Why, over there is that dresser that still has those teeth marks on it where your sister fell from your brother’s shoulders. And there’s the carpet with that stain from you spilling the glue. In that corner is where you put your Christmas tree every year using the same angel on top. Except now she’s yellow instead of white. And that closet back there was the best hiding place for “hide and seek” when your parents left you with a sitter. Here’s the room in which your brother lit a smoke bomb on your birthday and made the cake taste like sulfur and there’s the heater you dressed in front of on cold winter morns.

Ah, home. Dorothy was right. There’s no place like it.