Being Home: A journey through addresses and relationships

My adult life can largely be marked by changes of address - each representing their own relationship and the accompanying cycle of hope and moving-on.  With this has been an on-going dialogue between my heart and head questioning where, how, and what is Home.

In consolidating storage recently, I handled all of the framed photos of my older daughter - chronicling her young life through the lens of Sears portrait studios.  17 years previous, I meticulously honored a hunch that in hanging these photos, the relationship that created that daughter would be as permanent as the hole in the wall.  Assembled on this same wall was a compilation of baby pictures showing me and her dad throughout our childhood.  I remember choosing the beautiful heavy wood frame that would hold this collage with reverence.  These years later, the photos remain framed, lovingly stacked in a cedar chest for my daughter.  The holes are likely patched-over in a home that was sold after the divorce.  As I've touched these photos through various moves I'm reminded that pictures on the wall don't make a permanent home.

Renewed hope came with my next address and marriage, and with it, my continued attempt to create permanence on the wall.  While photos of combined families still found a spot, these images were dwarfed by my new focus: creating images that reminded us of our love.  A beautifully shot image of the Cape Cod beach where we married hung next to a decorative shelf that held other reminders of that day.  I liked looking and touching these items every week while cleaning.  But not to ignore our unique histories, I also filled the walls with images of my husband's past -- images of Maine's mountains and coastline which I matted and framed, hung with honor in the entryway.  And every year, as if decorating for a holiday, I'd set up our entry table to hold a beautiful display honoring our anniversary: wine glasses filled with sea glass, sprigs of wheat representing my fall bouquet, a postcard stand holding the invitation and favorite snapshots.  All of these items also now in storage, filling my younger daughter's chest.  These items, reminders of love experienced, didn't make a permanent home.

While I entered my next home unencumbered by a mate, soon one arrived.  My home had already been arranged, a comfortable, loving space for my girls and me.  My partner felt this love and with new hope, he became permanent.  With lessons' learned, this time I recognized that wall hangings weren't enough, I needed cash.  I needed the kind of commitment from my partner that significant financial investment implied.  This commitment was symbolized by him equalling the equity that I had in my home.  A man that was willing to not only love me but also bet on it was the new magic key.  Through this new security, my heart, as well as the home, went through a renovation.  However this overtly grand gesture seemed to come at an even larger price: an inflated illusion of real permanence.  The relationship soon shattered, leaving me unable to reimburse my mate's investment.  He kept the house, I found a new address.  I still laugh at my thinking that money would make a permanent home.

The lovely place that my girls and I now call home is filled with minimal but special objects.  And even though all of these addresses have been within miles of each other, the lessons have spanned great distance.  A girlfriend, commenting on the harsh reality of relationships, recently asked me the seemingly rhetorical question: "What do you want?"  She assumed that like her, I had moved to a place in my mind that affirmed the idea that a home is best defined by me, and not by a relationship.  Certainly this journey has taken me through the self-reliant stages -- some barely disguised bitterness and some more authentic -- but her question haunted me: "What do I want?"

What stage comes after self-reliancy?  Is this solo living the mecca of end points?  Does my quest to be balanced, whole, and wrapped in self-love come with the prize of reality that my girlfriend holds?  Do I somehow diminish the strides that I and my fellow women travelers have made should I hold a future that involves a shared home?  Have these years alone been healing enough that I would dare emerge from my self-relianiancy into a new place of relationship hope?

As these questions circled, a vision that I used to hold re-emerged in my heart.  A vision of a not fully defined place, but a place nonetheless.  Perhaps it's a small cabin in the woods, a cottage at the beach, or a house on a street, but I can see that love radiates in the space.  I don't know if it's a structure of permanency but I know it's filled with evolving love that will flow wherever my mate and I roam.  This vision answered that question as the cycle of hope and moving-on turns.  This is what I want and this I am strong enough to hold. I know this place is home and I won't need a picture to prove it.

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Ellen Kellner, www.ANewDivorce.com

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