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Funny how we all have our own mental image when we think “home”.  It may be the place we now live, it may the place where we grew up, it may be a photograph from a magazine, or it may be something we conjure in our minds though we couldn’t put it on paper.  

Preston Steed’s Familiar Steps, the watercolor pictured above, is my comfort food type image of home.  I can stare at this picture and go back in time to the summers spent in the Deep South when we’d be at my grandparent’s home, a white clapboard on what used to be a clay dirt road smack in the middle of farmland.  Just up the road with only a field to separate the homes lived Earl and Lola May and their kids who were grown by the time I was young.  We could look out my grandmother’s kitchen window and see their house, and if the weather was pretty and I could find a reason I’d beg to race through the fields, or even go on the edge of the road if I was a having a scary day worried about snakes in the crops, to dance and play on the porch that looked just like this one.  The screen door was always unlocked and gauzy white curtains hung in the open front windows and blew in and out with the summer’s breeze.  Lola May and Dilane treated me like a little princess and if I was really lucky Earl would stop by and tease me into giggles.  There was always a dog or two and several cats around the porch and barn that welcomed me.  Many times the dogs from my grandparent’s farm or my uncle’s dogs would follow me up the road and join the fun.  

I don’t remember a lot about Lola May’s house but I do remember laying back on the counter while my hair was washed and oohed and aahed over by Dilane.  Lola May always made scratch biscuits and they were always wonderful.  

Years later when Lola May had passed and everyone in that family had moved on, Buck and Marilou came to live there.  By then the house was looking pretty dejected but nothing could wear down the joy and ease of a visit to Buck and Marilou.  With hands blackened by rolling his own cigarettes and speech impeded by a lack of teeth, Buck made merry out of anything and Marilou smiled on it all.  I was too old to race with the dogs up the road but I did by then drive into their yard where new old dogs graced the porch and wagged lazy tails at visitors.  Cats, unnamed, twisted in and out of the legs and begged for attention.  Rocking chairs and wooden crates dotted the front porch, the perfect place to shell peas and butterbeans and talk.  

No matter what they were doing, Buck and Marilou always welcomed visitors with smiles and hospitality.  They dropped everything to make whoever was there feel significant and appreciated.  

I drove by there not long ago and it all came rushing back and I wanted that house.  Well, not actually the house because it probably houses a million bugs and critters that I’d rather not know about.  I knew it wasn’t so much the house as the feeling I had being there…acceptance, love, family, warmth, contentment, safety, joy, community, belonging, happiness. I would have the same feeling at my Granny’s house, and my Grandmother’s house, and sometimes at other homes where I’d go with grandparents to visit. It was magical, that feeling, as if there was something bigger, greater, and beyond my knowledge that spread a net of “I belong here” over the places called home.

I still cry when I leave those places, cry like I did as a little girl when it was time to go back to wherever we lived because summer was over and school was starting and it was time to go home.  In my heart, that was home.  And though the house is still standing, as are the other little clapboard houses that bubbled with joy in those summers long ago, they are no longer home. The people I knew are all gone now. 

It’s funny that no matter how hard we try to make it so, home isn’t the building, isn’t the stuff inside, isn’t even the personal things that we hold dear.  It’s the people we love, those who make us feel loved, that make home home.  

I believe that Jesus will come and take us to the home he has prepared for us.  It will outshine any homes I’ve ever known and the feeling of belonging, of being really home, will be beyond my wildest dreams.  

Until that day comes, I will dream of little white houses with screen doors and front windows, stone steps that lead to front porches with rocking chairs, hear the mild chatter of dear old souls who want only to make others happy and spread goodwill, smell the earthy greenness of shelled peas, butterbeans and homemade biscuits fresh from the oven, and love every cat and dog I see because of the special feeling only they can bring.  And somehow I will try to give that feeling to my own kids even though there really is no comparison.   

Home.  There’s nothing like it.

My HB, can’t wait til you are home. 

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