Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Who Says You Can't Go Home

Tom and I've been married for 9.5 years, a couple for 11.5 years, and friends for 14 years. Tom introduced me to his family just two months after he and I met (on the very first day of his freshman year of college), so essentially I've known Tom's family for as long as I've known Tom.

Throughout those 14 years - and for many years prior - Tom's parents lived in a lovely home in Nebraska. I estimate that I visited them in that house at least 25 times, and during these visits we made wonderful memories, especially after Will and Hallie were born:
Taking a "dad nap" on the family room couch.
Gathering together for a wedding celebration.
Playing with Grandma.
Watching Animal Planet with Grandpa.
Bath time with Simon and Norah in the "swimming pool".
Developing a love for technology (and drooling).
Taking family photos in the only configuration agreeable to Will.
Just two buddies in their matching shirts
Learning to drive "the bus".
Sword fighting on the driveway.
Tasting rice cereal for the first time.
She clearly loved it.
Another "dad nap" on the family room couch.
Christmas Eve photos by the fireplace.
Christmas morning by the tree.
Last year my inlaws decided it was time for a change. They sold their house and moved to a temporary location while they built a new house in a new neighborhood. The home where Tom had lived since the 7th grade, where I'd met and come to know and love Tom's family, and where we brought our children so they could develop relationships with their grandparents, aunts, and uncles was no longer in the family.

While planning this trip to Nebraska I worried - admittedly somewhat selfishly - about how it would feel to visit my in-laws in their new house. I'm moderately sentimental and dislike change, especially change accompanied by an adjustment period (like moving), and as a result I just couldn't wrap my head around a family gathering anywhere except their home. I also worried about how the kids would adjust because, well, because I'm just a worrywart.

As is almost always the case, I needn't have worried. As we toured the new house, it felt more and more like home with each room we saw. The living room furniture was new, but sinking down into the familiar family room furniture brought back memories of watching episodes of Real Housewives of Orange County with my sis-in-law and playing the you-must-talk-in-an-accent version (which we invented) of Catch Phrase with Tom and his siblings. I spent 15 minutes searching for a cookie sheet in the new kitchen cabinets, but when I opened the refrigerator I somehow knew where my mother-in-law kept the Greek yogurt and the jar of pepper jelly. The sound of my children's bare feet echoed strangely as they raced across the new wood floors, but their laughter, accompanied by my father-in-law's banjo, filled the rooms with sweet, sweet music just like in visits past.

This move, though not mine, was a reminder that "home" is not a building. Home is not where your furniture sits or your belongings are stored or your artwork and framed photos hang on the walls. It's not necessarily just the familiar. It's not necessarily even where the memories were made.

It's where the people are. It's where the people make music and share laughter and give love. So as long as you hang on to the people, you can always go home.

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