On Coming Home

Julia Reed got me thinking —
What does it mean to come home?

“I’m home,” she says, walking through the dimly-lit door after being out with her college sophomore boyfriend — who, by the way, is two years older and whom she has dated for close to two years. Her announcement of her arrival never fails to bring a deep level of thankfulness and, yes, joy to my heart (and concurrently, relief that she is safe!).

“I’m home,” she says. She was six and a half when she came to live with us. It took almost two and a half years for us to adopt her, so when she announces herself, I totally believe she means it in a way many of us take for granted. I believe she is reassured, settled, situated.

I think of her seven-year-old self, coming in from a bike ride with neighborhood pals; or walking up from the lake on which we lived, just back to land after an outing in the canoe; or when she got to go trick-or-treating at Halloween by herself for the first time.

Each and every time she comes through the door, it’s always the same: “I’m home.”

I suspect this is a common occurrence in many households, the announcement that one is home. In the current issue of Garden and Gun magazine, Julia Reed (I love you, Julia Reed!) makes the announcement of her home she recently completed in the Mississippi Delta, which is somewhat close to where I grew up in Louisiana (in the country, a few miles out from Monroe).

Reed describes her abode as her folly, which defined means “a costly ornamental building that was built in a garden for decoration or amusement.” I get what she means, but her latest architectural adventure is anything but frivolous.

She built on land formerly belonging to her mother and father, directly alongside and across the fence from her parents’ former home. She’s returned – even though she never actually left – to Greenville after years of living in New York and New Orleans, where she now primarily resides. But is Ms. Reed home? You bet. She writes of friends and family coming for the housewarming, of that time being blessed by their presence and the prayers they all said together in her new rooms. She speaks of life coming full circle with the culmination of construction and decoration of her project in a way that powerfully says, “I’m home.”

Being home isn’t about a building, as such. Being home is about living in your own skin the way nobody else but you knows how to do. Being home is about learning how to trust the ever-evolving narrative of your existence — at work, at play, at ease (or not at ease), wherever.

Being home, rather, is about a sense of place, a place of brick and mortar perhaps, but resoundingly, a place where one can be the best self one is called to be. Being home is the place where our life’s narrative intersects with that deep truth of it all; that despite the trickeries, vagaries and shortcomings our existence sometimes delivers to us, the truth of our hearts announcing to the world we are here, we are home.

Lionel Smith-McGehee

In addition to his work with Kinship, Lionel Smith-McGehee is a husband and father, a gardener, and lives in a restored mid-century home in Maitland, Florida.

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Christine Van Dyk - March 18, 2019

Great thought and a beautiful sentiment.

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