I spent the weekend thinking about what home means to me, trying to prepare myself to write something for Charli Mills’ Carrot Ranch prompt this week. I brainstormed memories from all the homes I have lived in (and I’ve lived in a lot), trying to find a pattern or inspiration or…something.
Now, I have more than my fair share of memories from home that make me smile—Scooby Doo every single Saturday morning, gin rummy with my grandmother, the smell of sun-dried chlorine, and Christmas lights…oh, the hundreds of thousands of tiny white lights! (I’ll save those lights for another post.) But when someone says the word home, my mind goes blank. Well, that’s not true. Actually I think about boxes and suitcases.
I lived in at least eight different homes before I turned eighteen, so it’s not all that surprising that after high school, I moved on average every two years until I was thirty-five. That’s at least another nine homes (and trust me, it was more than that). I’ve lived in another two homes since I turned thirty-five, so I have lived in about twenty homes in forty-five years.
I’ve lived in my current home for five years as of last month, but I still am not even halfway done with unpacking boxes. I stayed in my previous home the longest, lasting until the month after I unpacked that last box, at which point I contacted a realtor. I’m sure there are some underlying psychological issues going on with me, but let’s not explore that today.
My thoughts about home experienced a new flurry of activity when I met up with some high school friends. It was the first time we’ve all hung out together in almost thirty years. We were part of the group who scattered as far from our hometown as possible once graduation rolled around. We joked about how one woman had gone off the grid for more than two decades and had only relatively recently been able to return home to her parents’ house. Another friend moved home several years ago to wait for his father to die. These two friends also had complicated ideas of home. The former had run away from home as an adult to deal with her struggles to understand who she really was while the latter had run back home for a few more moments at his father’s bedside. Yet both felt extremely uncomfortable at home and were anxious for the moment when they could escape once again.
Home. It’s such a powerful word. Heck, the advertising field has made millions by depicting homecomings as warm, loving returns to a safe, secure place.
Home carries with it so many positive connotations—warmth, comfort, affection, love, acceptance, security, safety, refuge—that we often overlook the possibility for negative connotations. In fact, the Great and Powerful Google returns an extremely sparse list of possibilities of negative connotations of home, most of which focus on the idea of being a “woman’s place.” I can’t imagine that someone who endures abuse in the home has many positive associations with the word home, nor does a homosexual teen whose father tries to preach the gay out of him. Someone who is robbed or attacked by a stranger in their home probably doesn’t feel much security or safety.
The list of examples of people who might not see home as a great place to be seems endless, and yet when we use the word home, we rely so heavily on the belief that it will evoke warm and fuzzies in every member of our audience. Are we doing a disservice to our readers when we expect everyone to have the same interpretation of a word? Does it matter?
I don’t know the answers to such questions, but if you’ve been reading my work for any length of time, you know that I love to explore the taboo, the unexpected, the different…so here’s my take on home.
No Place Like Home
Vicki pawed at the plastic bottle in her pocket while Scooby Doo ruh-rohed on TV. She picked up bowls of pink cereal milk, taking a slurp to wash down the pills before maneuvering through the labyrinth of gangly legs.
She stood over the sink. Fifteen minutes in a backseat and now she was a slave to three nine-year-olds. She’d been meant for a corporate business account and vibrant 401k, not snotty noses and mountains of sweaty clothes that out-stank rotting flesh.
She popped another pill before washing gooey leftovers from last night’s dishes. No place like home my ass.