Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Neighborhood Called Home

Plat Collage by midgefrazel
Plat Collage, a photo by midgefrazel on Flickr.


Home. It is a simple but powerful word for every human but to those of us who are genealogists and family historians, home involves geography and history. It is with this that I think about place-based family history beginning with my earliest personal existence.

Starting a project with the idea of home makes me feel nostalgic for simpler and safer times. We long for the past to help us deal with the present and prepare for the future. All genealogical work depends upon the firm foundation of the "home" person in our family tree. In our ever-dazzling rush to know our most distant ancestors, we often forget to record our own life. What will our descendants and fellow researchers think if we don't tell our own life story?

Home can mean living in many states. We are a mobile society. We often own many dwellings in a lifetime and are always looking for the next place to live. We start out small, buy bigger and downsize in the blink of our history's eye. Think about it. How many places have you called "home"? Does home mean the places we spent time with our grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles and where they lived? Are your vacation houses or condos called home? When we close our eyes at the end of the day, does home become the place we currently live? Do we dream about the places of our childhood, giving sweet and fond memories to cling to in time of worry and despair? Chances are good, we as humans have this common, expanded idea of home.

When I was newly married, my mother asked me if I still called her house, "home". The answer was not going to be the she wanted to hear and it puzzled me. Knowing what she thought of as "home" from her own stories, I quickly had to decide on a satisfying but truthful answer. I told her that I still called the state of Rhode Island home but the place of my adulthood was also home. Home is where "you hang your hat" was what I said using an old expression that she would understand. She may not have liked my answer, but I didn't lie. She asked me no more questions.

Selling my parent's home after they died was very hard for me as on only child. With my maternal grandmother living with my parents until she passed away, my father and mother dying within ten years of my grandmother's death, the house became my last link to my past. Every time I went there to clean it out or meet with my realtor, right down to passing papers, I was haunted by losing part of what I called home. I had dreams about it for many months. The only consolation I had was that my parents were "called home" to be with the ancestors. There was a beautiful sunset when my mother died. Just a glimpse of heaven's show to ease the pain.

While you are on this adventure with me, I want you to remember that it is good to be home at the end of the day.

There's nothing like it on earth or in heaven. Do you agree?

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