It seems the older I get, the more I miss my childhood, and the more I yearn to go “Home.” Yes, my present house, the one I have lived in for a little over twenty years, is home, but I’m referring more to a state of being than a physical place.
I will say, though, that the old, weathered house where I spent the first twelve years of my life is a big part of Home. It had no indoor plumbing, and we relied on heat from the fireplace in the front room and the wood cookstove in the kitchen in the winter months to keep us warm. Most places inside were still cold if you weren’t in the kitchen or right in front of the fireplace. My siblings and I slept under quilts my mama had made from fabric scraps. On frigid nights, the layers were so heavy I felt almost pinned to the bed under their weight. But I wasn’t cold. Many mornings I woke to the cloud of my breath and the smell of baking biscuits and sizzling bacon.
In the summer, there was no escaping the heat. I had never known the luxury of a fan to sleep under, let alone air conditioning, so I don’t recall sweating interfering with my sleep. In the height of summer, Mama canned vegetables from our large garden. My sisters and I were often recruited to help, and let me tell you, if I had to be in that hot, stifling kitchen today, I would probably pass out.
I don’t look back on those times as hard, though I’m sure they were to my parents. They bore the bulk of the work and let us children have plenty of playtime. We roamed our large farm/ranch and the lands surrounding it (which at that time was still primarily woods), played in the branch, and because we had few toys, improvised our own. We used our imaginations to be cowboys, Indians (that’s what Native Americans were known as then), play war, and sometimes, my sister closest in age to me, and I played with dolls. But outside was the preferred place to be.
I’m old enough to know that I look back on those times through rose-colored glasses, but I think most of us do, even those whose childhoods weren’t so great. Some people have horrific childhoods with little to no good memories, but most of us fall somewhere between idyllic and horrific. And I think we recall more of the good than the bad over time.
My mama had a hard childhood. Her family was dirt poor, and her father was an abusive alcoholic, and though Mama’s mother was kind and gentle, I don’t think she protected her children from their father. In that day and time, the man was the king of his castle, and what he said (or did) was the law. I believe, though, that Granny endured most of his physical violence. And you know, one would think my mama would have no desire to return to that time in her life or see her father again. But…
In the final months of her life, when my siblings and I were caring for Mama, she often spoke of her parents. She was old—eighty-seven—and after a series of mini-strokes (we think), her mind was slipping away. Frequently, she believed she was still a child, and her children were people she didn’t know who were taking care of her. She would ask us if Mama and Daddy knew she was there (Maybe in a hospital?) and when would they come to take her home. We always reassured her they knew and would be there as soon as she was well enough. What else could we do but make her passing as easy as possible for her both physically and emotionally?
Mama departed this earth eighteen years ago this month. And just like she wanted to go Home as she was dying, for several years now, I’ve also felt that urge to return Home as I know it. I don’t get it—what’s so magical about our childhood that makes us want to return there, that makes us hope that if there is a Heaven, it will be Home? Is it the innocence of that time in our lives that beckons to us, calls us back to the safety we felt beneath our parents’ wings? All too soon—especially in today’s world—that innocence is ripped away, and we see the ugly side of life.
As we grow older, we don’t necessarily grow more content. And we look back, look back, on those perfect halcyon days, wanting to go Home.
©2022 KT Workman