A few years ago, I quit my job in corporate marketing to start my own business. After a short adjustment, I realized that I didn’t have to ask anyone or fill out a form to request vacation. Then I booked a flight to spend a month at the only place where I could be the entire evolution of me: back home in Indiana, in the house where I grew up.
My parents still live there, in that two-story house with a basement where we huddled during every Midwestern twister that snaked through the area. The yard is lush and green, and sprawling hedges called bridal wreaths frame the edges of the property. Zachary Bennett, my kindergarten crush, moved away years ago, but the people who live there now are in their second generation as my parents’ next-door neighbors.
I wonder how this small building has wrapped its brick and mortar arms around me and enveloped me in a lifetime. People ask me how I can stand to spend a whole month with my parents every summer and I always think, “How could I not?”
(Me, Mom, and Dad with my Infiniti in the same driveway where I kept my very first car.)
son learned to ride his bike on the same streets that I did. We have ice cream
cones at the place where I used to work as a teenager. The doll house my dad made for my sister and I is still there. We swim in the same pool
that has been in the same spot since I was 18. It’s kind of incredible to think
that everything has frozen in time, and yet it has not, because - despite my best efforts to the contrary - I’m all grown
up now, and I run into people I have known since childhood and they’re adults
now too, many with grown children of their own.
I left home decades ago, putting the city where I grew up in my rear view mirror. It was all about freedom and independence and I was excited to move into a place of my own... even if I had to share it with a roommate. Parents seem like such a drag when you’re a young, impetuous know-it-all. I thought I was ready to take on adulthood and make my own decisions. Little did I know that I was about to make some rash – and sometimes naively, at best, or incredibly stupid, at worst – decisions.
And yet, when I came home at any interval, home was always there, waiting for me.
There is comfort in knowing you can go home, even when you don’t want to. That old house I was so eager to leave behind became a touchstone I could return to in order to recharge and remember where I came from, and where I had been.
(Dad and I working on the dollhouse he made for me and my sister when we were kids.)
Remember playing tag when you were a kid? The kids in our neighborhood played Ghost in the Graveyard and tag from house to house. Home base is the place where you put your hand to be safe from your pursuers. You'd run full speed out and race back to home base, where you could take a breath. Nobody can touch you there. Rest your weary body.
Home plate is the goal when you have ventured out and made your way all the way back, full circle.
On your phone, Home takes you back to where you started so you can begin again.
It feels like every time I look away, my son grows a millimeter taller. And I realize that all of the clichés are so intensely, terribly, wonderfully, astonishingly true. “It goes so fast” seems ridiculously inadequate to say. That’s true about my parents, too, and I know that every time they look at me, they see that little pigtailed girl running around between the trees in this very spot.
They are starting to think about moving out of this house, this beautiful home full of memories. The first year they started talking about it, I came up with 10 reasons why they could not, all focused on me. The second year, I began to realize that I was being selfish, and what’s most important is that they are safe and comfortable. A house with a big yard is a lot of work.
What I realized is that the house is not my home plate. It’s not home base. It’s a house. Yes, I love that house and everything in it… but most importantly, I love my mom and dad. And wherever they are is home.
Kristin Shaw is a writer based in Austin, Texas. For more of her writing, you can find her at KristinVShaw.com for parenting, music, and entertainment, and she's the editor-in-chief at CarsHerWay.com. Her essay and video "I can still pick him up, so I do" has been seen by millions of viewers on the TODAY Parents platform.