On a particularly wintry afternoon in the Oklahoma town where I grew up, I have a clear memory of feeling so grateful as I walked home from school, that I was going to a warm place: I could rummage in the kitchen to find a snack; my dog would be there; my family would have dinner together later. Home meant security.
I stumbled onto a site for the organization National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, which since 2008 has held a poster contest for children ages 5-18 living in affordable (which is to say public) housing. Participants enter a drawing depicting what their home means to them. From the hundreds of entries received from around the country, three judges choose 13 winners to be featured in NAHRO’s “What Home Means to Me” calendar.
When I watched Places in the Heart in 1984, I loved the cast and the story where Sally Fields’ character is widowed when her sheriff husband is shot. She then soon discovers that their farm is about to be foreclosed on. With courage and fortitude, she manages with her young son to forge a little “family” to include the banker’s blind nephew (who the banker foists on her to give her some income) and a straggler who comes looking for work. This unlikely little band of folks manages to bring in a crop against all odds and save the farm. At the time I was living in base housing on Offutt Air Base and had no thought of ever living on a farm myself. But now that I do, I have come over the years here to love the connection to the earth, the seasons of the crops, the woods which surround our property.
Living for the past three and a half months in a huge complex in Maryland while caring for our grandchildren, I was deeply aware of the separation from our home. Sometimes I felt more the absence of my belongings: books I couldn’t put my hands on, my meditation space, my clavinova piano. But I recognize something else, something I saw reflected in one of the NAHRO posters from 2019. That focus was a tree, roots deep in the ground. The branches were bare, backlighted by a subtly colored sun. But two of the branches bent to form a heart in the middle of the tree. I think of how rooted I feel here and how from love we created “home.”
We have discussed selling—home too large, property too much to keep up. Eventually, I expect I will be in some other space. But if and when that time comes, may the earth, the woods, embedded in my core, and the love I have known in this place, sustain me wherever I may be.
And whatever and wherever home is for you, may it be a place where love resides.
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: Two recommendations: If you have never seen or haven’t watched it in a long time, consider watching Places in the Heart. To see the artwork from the NAHRO poster competition, go to http://www.nahro.org.