Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Oct. 26, 2007

Homes, sweet homes

Niece Gabriela is in her first semester at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. and she seems to be thriving. In every e-mail exchange, she talks about her friends, her classes and her busy schedule of activities.

But I had a feeling homesickness would strike sooner or later - just as it does with most college kids. Usually, they're excited about their first few weeks in a new place - learning about campus, finding their way around a new city, meeting new people, keeping up with classes, testing their independence. But after adjusting to their new lives and realizing that they're in it for the long haul, they start thinking about home.

In a recent e-mail message, Gabriela told me she was a bit homesick.

"There are some days that are just amazing where home is Macalester! But then there comes a day when I'm all sad 'cause home is Bolivia."

I understood, and her words caused me to think of the many places which feel like "home" to me.

The two farms in Marion County where I grew up surrounded by the love of family and the simple beauty of the changing seasons are the homes I came from.

Ecuador, where I was a Peace Corps volunteer, was my home for two years. I grew to love the Ecuadorian people and was awed by the magnificent Andes Mountains and the expanse of Pacific coastline near my apartment.

I worked on a newspaper in Costa Rica for nearly two years, cutting my teeth as a journalist there. I fell in love with the country's friendly people, its lush jungles and its sandy beaches.

And I've lived for 30 years - more than half my life - in the Manhattan area. I attended Kansas State University in the 1970s and now call the area and the University home once again.

Then there are also the places that I've never lived, but have visited sufficiently often that they seem like homes. California, where Dad's two brothers and families lived, was our exotic "get-away" home. It was there that I saw the ocean and palm trees for the first time, sampled my first red snapper and avocado, and experienced the magic of Disneyland.

Visiting at Aunt Edith's and Uncle Bud's farm and my maternal grandparents' farm where we went "over the river and through the woods" at holiday time made areas of Morris County also seem like homes away from home.

Wisconsin, the birthplace of husband Art, is where we go for part of the Christmas holiday, his family reunion and summer vacation. I love the rolling farmland, the beautiful lakes and the hours of raspberry and blackberry picking - as well as Art's quirky relatives.

Other "homes" are Bolivia, where sister Gaila and family live; Germany and Great Britain, where our family has spent considerable vacation time; New Zealand, where high school friend Joyce lived for 25 years and which Art and I visited 10 years ago; and Sweden, where Mom, Gaila, her two girls and I traveled to see where our ancestors came from and to meet relatives we previously didn't know we had.

People say that home is where your heart is. But what if your heart is in several places?

As I told Gabriela, "Once you've lived in a place or spent some time in and loved a place, it will always be in your heart."

So from now on, she'll feel torn between at least two places; she will always have more than one home.

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