(Ths post should be dated June 23, 2011. I hit the “Publish” button before editing the date/time for posting for the 23rd. Now I’ll have to write something else for tthe real 23rd!)
The title line is from Isaac Watts’ poetic setting of Psalms 23. The final verse of the beautiful hymn is:
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all of my days.
Oh may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come –
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.
Hubs and I were singing this on the way home from choir practice tonight. We are planning to be two parts of a trio of voices singing this some time this summer. But my post is not so much about the Psalm, as it is about my own memories of “home.”
I was fortunate to have grown up in a very strong, loving, and close family. My first semester at college, I was particularly glad that I went to a State school (University of Connecticut), because it meant that I could go home frequently on the weekends. I had not been quite ready to fly the coop after high school. As a matter of fact, I didn’t want to go to college right away – I wanted to wait a couple of years. I thought I would be more prepared to put my nose to the grindstone, after six difficult years in Jr. and Sr. high schools. My parents listened to me, but made a counter offer: “If you will try it for a year, and you still don’t like it, then you may withdraw.” I thought about it, and capitulated. My first semester was a disaster. I was put on academic probation; but then right before the end of that first semester, things sort of clicked into place. I was never off the Dean’s List after that first semester.
However, during those awful first four months, I would wait impatiently for the week to end, so that I could go home. The 1-3/4 hour drive was bearable knowing that home waited at the end of it. Since this was during the Fall of the year, my Dad generally kept a wood fire going in the fireplaces in our home. There was one big hearth one in our family room, and a two-sided, “see-through” one between the living room and the smaller music room (or the blue room, as we would sometimes call it, for obvious reasons – it was decorated in shades of calming blue).
The scent of wood smoke – not overpowering, but soft on the air at home – has, since our move from Texas to Connecticut when I was twelve, signified home to me. But it brings to mind the home I grew up in, whatever house it was, and I felt completely wrapped in love and acceptance. I was home. The gentle scent of wood smoke still puts me back – instantly – in the presence of my parents, and my two brothers. I remember when my eldest brother, John, was in the Navy during the Vietnamese war, where his patrolled the South China Sea, my Dad would unfold a card table, once a week, and make a large packet to mail to him of clippings from newspapers and magazines, cartoons, crosswords, acrostics, Jumbles – any sort of thing he knew that John would enjoy. Not only did John enjoy those packets that Dad mailed faithfully every week during the years John spent on tour over there, but everyone on board the DLG-26, (the USS Belknap), who knew when those packets arrived, stood in line to get their chance at enjoying them for themselves. In my memory, it was always in the Fall or Winter that he did those mailings for John – at least that is the clear memory of my Dad as he went about creating that gift of his time, effort, and love. And a fire always burned in the fireplace, and everything was exactly right.
Since hearth fires were a part of the daily routine for at least half of the year, there remained year-round a faint aroma of smoke in our home – most especially in the family room – a room that fully lived up to its name. Pepper stayed in that room, and because laughter usually filled the entire home, Pepper became our laughing bird, and a frequent contributor to the conversations he heard; he seldom failed to get his own “two cents” in during our lively, talk-over-one-another chatter. (It took my Hubs a long time to learn how to join in on those gab-fests! He was raised in a family – also wonderful – where only one person spoke at a time, and considered each point made with quiet concentration. If Ashley had continued to hold on to that polite tradition at my natal family’s home, he never would have gotten a word in edgewise! While our way was not nearly so polite, in our own free-wheeling manner, we each heard what the other person said, and nobody was ever left out of the discussions, unless they wanted to be. There was no other place as wonderful to me as my home.
That has held true for me, even after the death of my parents, and Ashley’s – my very own Mom “C” and Pappy. Family is home. I don’t think I did as good a job as my folks did in engendering such warm feelings, but our three sons still seem to feel at home wherever we are, as we do when visiting them. There is no other place in the world where I feel exactly the same way – no matter how comfortable or familiar another place may be. Home is where you always carry within yourself a bit of those child-like feelings.
Two of my favorite memories of being both a Mom and a “child at home” took place in our family room. First, when our Josh was a little boy, and just learning to talk, my Mom would sit on the hearth next to him, trying to teach him to say “Granny.” She would look at Josh and say, “Josh, this is Granny; Granny!” and all the while she said this she was patting herself on the chest. After her first session with him (I was a silent witness to this joy), Mom said to Josh, “OK, Josh, where is Granny?” Josh would look up at her with love, and pat his own chest. It was imitative, but I could not help but see it as Josh’s own affirmation that his Granny was always in his heart; even now, more than ten years after her death, she remains there for him. The scent of wood smoke swirls all around that memory, and I am once again transported back home.
Another precious memory is our son Matt’s special love for his G-Daddy. Early on, my Dad was the first that he ran to see, and the first words out of Matt’s mouth, every time he visited at Granny and G-Daddy’s was, “G-Daddy? Will you make me a fire?” It’s small wonder Matt loved him so – because even on the hottest days of the Summers before Dad died – over twenty years ago – G-Daddy built a fire for Matt, just because he asked him to. Many times, he had a fire going for him already, on those days when he knew we would be there to visit.
Such sweet, sweet memories, and all the perfect photos in my heart and mind, brought all the wonderful feeling that is spilling out of me and filling the room with their own scent. Oddly enough, they all return with the faint aroma of wood smoke.
Thank you for coming along on my journey back home, and coming back to the here and now, to the home of my heart, and the home in the house wherein we live. Because it is there and here that I find “my settled rest, while others go and come. No more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home.”
May you all, my Gentle Readers, be blessed with enough. . .