When Jasper was a little guy, he was a man of very few words. He had a lot of ear infections, so was at risk for speech delay. The therapist came to evaluate him at 18 months, and she concluded that he did not even know that words represented actions, thoughts, or things. She had asked him to go get the ball and he did not. I was not too worried. Balls were not important to him. He had a few words, “mama”, “dada”, “juice” and anything with wheels had a name as well. This boy lived for wheels. Anything van-like was a “bus” He did not have the tr blend, so anything that looked like a truck was a “f%#@”. Most interestingly, your standard station wagon or sedan was called “home”. We were not homeless. We did not live out of our car. But we were a one car/one bike trailer family at the time. I reasoned that he was learning possessive’s at the same time he was learning that words represented actual objects. When either Jim or I would drive up to the house in the Subaru, the resounding chorus was, “Mama’s home!” or “Daddy’s home!” Replace the apostrophe of contraction with one of possession, and you can understand Jasper’s wonderful confusion/conclusion!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of home lately. As usual, I looked it up in my on-line dictionary. Home is:

  1. a house, apartment, of other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household: Hmm, I changed my house about a year ago. I reside here, so does Greg, so do his two horses, and our 4 chickens. The cat would like to, but she is kept outside to keep the dwelling space free of mice. My children visit here, I get some of their mail here, but they do not live here. My mom moved into a retirement duplex, and my old dog died here. I just found out that a few of the couples I thought would be in Moscow forever are leaving to live closer to extended family. While sad, I get it. They have young children. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins are important. A house/shelter does not make a home.
  2. the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered: This feels a little more true. After a year without, I finally have a garden here. I harvested basil today and my mom came up to make pesto, a tradition that has gone on for over 10 years. The new kitchen is wonderful to cook in. Space to spread out, easy to clean, and the kitchen “triangle” is the perfect size for practicing line dances. But cooked food is meant to be shared. Greg, due to the nature of his job and commute, has often consumed most of his daily calories prior to getting here. He does not expect nor want a full meal every night. Being “off” of the nightly cooking chore is freeing in some ways, but I like making good food and sharing it with those I love. Domestic tasks can be done anywhere, and do not make a home.
  3. the place or region where something is native or most common: I took a break from early morning swimming this summer to spend more time and energy at home. I would get up early with Greg, and then head out into the garden, get on the mower, or head into the woods with a chain saw and pulaski. We care deeply for this hunk of land and are doing our best to improve it, both for us and the generations to come. Much time is spent battling those plant species that are not native, but are certainly most common. We have a lifetime supply of firewood in the form of introduced/result of clear cutting vine maple. St John’s Wort, hawkweed, and ventenata try to outcompete our native grasses and the horses won’t touch them. Did you know that thistle can reach over head height and can get bigger around than a baseball bat? Work, yes, but bonding with my land in this way makes it feel more like home. When I work in the woods, I make a habit of taking the time to lie down and look up. Seeing all the different tree species against the summer sky lets me know what is possible, and what will remain long after we are dead and gone.
  4. a person’s native place or home country: After Jim died and before I met Greg, I dated a man from Montana. He had the job of his dreams in Missoula and he was in love with the bike trails and mountains of his home state. I lived in ID. I could not leave at the time as I still had Jasper to launch into the world. We made it work for a while, but distance relationships do not work forever. That summer, I took off for a week on the Salmon River. Driving down into canyon country, I realized I could never leave ID. This place, these rivers, they are part of my soul. Emerald said it best in one of her blog pieces. “The rivers of Idaho were like a fifth member of our family.”
  5. any place of refuge: When Greg and I met, I made it very clear that this community of Moscow was my home and I did not want to leave. The people of this place were the nest that held me and my family through illness, death, and that place that is even darker than death. Red table gatherings with girlfriends that had me laughing so hard the wine came out of my nose, folks stopping by just in time for a little smackeral of something, a quick trip downtown on my blue bicycle to the co-op so I could talk to someone besides the dog. A place to take a shower after running, a saggy couch to nap on in-between work appointments. Much of this has changed since moving out of town. Gatherings need to be scheduled and everyone is so busy. Nobody just pops in. Shopping trips are consolidated and get stuck inbetween work appointments, and they are done in the truck. I shower at a friends, or at the University. Still, when I take the turn off the highway, and head up the gravel road, there is a sigh of contentment. I nap on the couch. I am home.

After Jim died, the hardest time of day for me was the “ingathering” of the family at the end of the day. “Daddy’s home” was a phrase I would never hear again. Having him come through the door after a bike ride on pesto day, or hearing Jasper come thumping down the stairs after sleep (yes, when he was a teenager, these two times would often coincide), and having both boys says “Wow, something sure smells good in THIS kitchen” are joys that are no longer mine. Where I live now, I can see a vehicle approaching through my kitchen window via a dust cloud on the gravel road from about a mile away. I see friends coming up for a run on the trails I cleared, a dad bringing his two kids to spend some time with the horses and chickens, my mom coming to help make and eat pesto, Emerald approaching in her blue Subaru with or without a boat in tow,  Jasper in my little blue Yaris, Greg in his truck at the end of a long work day. It is the people who make this place home.

I sent Jasper a picture of the cut basil this morning, and asked him to tell me what day it was. His reply, “Oh man, I miss home.” Me too, baby boy. Me too.

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