I recently ran across a blog support thread that was trying to get as many ladies as possible to join in a blog run – each lady would post a blog article dedicated to the concept of “home,” and what it means to them. By the time I saw the thread, it was too late to join in, but the concept stuck with me, so I am doing my own blog article about the subject of “home.”
I have always hated the question, “where are you from?” I once gave the answer, “I’m a citizen of the world!” You should have seen the look I was thrown at that answer.
You see, I am a proud Army brat. For Army brats, the saying is, “I bleed green.” I was born in Germany, but we left before I was old enough to remember more than a couple memories. We lived in Oklahoma for a few years, until half-way through my fourth grade year. Then, my dad retired, and we moved to Washington State, where I graduated from high school. Although living in the same city from mid-fourth grade through graduation, I still ended up attending five different schools during my time from fourth-grade through high school graduation. I always felt like a fish out of water, and then the final two years of high school, I skipped the high school experience, and took advantage of attaining my Associates degree at the Community College, while also attending a second (private) university simultaneously. Needless to say, I didn’t find the sense or feeling of “home,” even though I lived in the same town and geographical location for about eight years.
We’ve all heard the cliche saying, “home is where the heart is.” However, even after going away to continue working on my four-year degree, home was not where my family was, and home was definitely not in the town I was attending school! I was restless, and knew I wanted “more,” but I didn’t know what “more,” was, nor where to seek it.
I married a boy from Kansas, who was born and lived his entire life in Kansas. Granted, he was in the Army by the time I met him, but when you ask him, he has no qualms about quickly answering, “home is Kansas!” I sometimes envy his quick ability to answer that question. He knows, and I know, we are heading back to Kansas when his time is over – or, we’ll head to Texas, because he and I both love Texas, too. But, in the meantime, we will continue to move on the whims of the Army.
When I started thinking about the concept of “home,” I quickly identified where I would say home is for me today. Home, for me, is Hawaii.
But, what makes Hawaii home? It’s definitely not because family is there, because honestly, the nearest family to Hawaii is about a total of 8 hours’ plane ride away! It’s not having a dwelling place that I own, because let’s be realistic – homes in Hawaii are astronomically, outrageously priced! It’s not having a set of friends whom you have grown up with your entire life, because, well, we knew very few “locals,” and even fewer “natives,” to Hawaii, and we had known nobody from having a childhood in Hawaii.
I readily acknowledge part of my fondness and attachment to Hawaii is the fact that Man Cub was born there – it will always hold a special place in my heart because it is my oldest’s birth place. That said, I won’t be able to say the DC metropolitan area will hold a special place in my heart for my second born’s birth place – sorry, kid, not gonna happen! I also know, realistically, if we are ever blessed to live there again, my experiences may be different, and I may walk away wondering why I ever considered Hawaii “home.” But, for now, Hawaii is “home.”
In Hawaii, I reconnected with my Catholic faith. I also found such peace on the island, even when there was frenetic energy, that I have never experienced before, or since. The people on the islands were, for the most part, friendly – as long as you were kind, they were kind as well. Now that we are gone, the music of the islands makes me nostalgic, and I have cravings for the dishes that I made sure I learned to make before heading back to the mainland. Even as stressed as Soldier Boy could get, he also would acknowledge one drive around the island could make him relax as though he were also back home in his State of Kansas. The sense of “ohana,” or, “family,” permeated every segment of life on the island.
There’s a saying that, “Home is where the Army sends you.” I chuckled the first time I saw the sign at a craft fair, and the sign came home with me, with stars to write down the names of all your family’s duty locations. It is a sentiment that seeps through all military families – home is where the military, and its needs, sends you.
For many military families, there is a heavy emphasis on unpacking all your belongings immediately to create that “sense of home,” that all of us ultimately crave. Some people try to rationalize it as “children need structure,” and, “we need to know the basics haven’t changed.” While I agree with those rationalizations, I also am wise enough to recognize it’s because we all crave home, in whatever manner we can create.
I, however, don’t have that same attachment to the notion of “home.” I am more cynical, and figure, “well, we’ll be moving in the next 12-36 months anyway, and while we’re here, we have no need for fine china, so why bother taking it out?” So, I don’t create that desire to fully unpack my house.
When I think of home from childhood, I think of the traditions around the holidays – the smell of cookies in the oven, the music playing whatever appropriate holiday tunes were on (all of which were cassettes that haven’t been made into CDs), and the traditions and routines of the family as the holidays approached. I think of how we celebrated half-birthdays, because sometimes you didn’t know if you’d have friends around on your birthday because all of us lived such a transient lifestyle. I think of how birthdays were typically reserved for “family only,” again because you never knew who was going to be around for a sleepover. I think of how I felt more connected to the notion of “home,” in the books I was reading, than in the reality of my life.
And, perhaps it is because of how important traditions and the holidays were to the notion of “home,” that drives my devotion to creating memories built around the holidays for my now fledgling family.
Soldier Boy doesn’t understand why I am in a rush, come Thanksgiving night after the turkey leftovers are put away, to putting up the Christmas tree – he hasn’t had to build his concept of home around the calendar! He hasn’t understood why my family has occasionally had “Christmas in June,” when everyone celebrated Christmas because that is when one of my brothers came home from Afghanistan or Iraq. Soldier Boy has a good humor about those ideas and concepts, but he’s a little more pragmatic in pointing out, “but Christmas is in December.”
So, as I am raising my children, I am at a loss at what creates a sense of “home,” for them. I want them to be able to readily identify with home being where their heart is – whether one says Hawaii, another says Kansas, a third says Washington, D.C., and a fourth says Timbuktu. However, I want their heart to also answer, “home is where Mom and Dad are,” and to know wherever life may take them, they have a desire to come “home,” to us, even for brief visits. I can only imagine to create that sense with the traditions and the love I instill in their hearts and minds as they grow, learn, and ultimately become (hopefully) successful adults.
Until then, however, I think I will stick with the adage, “home is where the Army sends you,” knowing that home is ultimately with my family, wherever in the world we are – my Soldier Boy, my Man Cub, Baby2, and fur-kids. And, I am just excited that if I stick with that philosophy, I will always be “home for the holidays.”