Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 29, 2018

Where the heart is

It has been about two weeks since daughter Katie and hubby Matt took the next major step in their life together. For some time, they had been packing things for their move to Albuquerque. Their final few days were a mix of completing last-minute preparations and hanging out with family and friends in a sort of a protracted “good bye.”

It would be a long drive, so they left early and none of us were there to see them off. But when I checked my phone later, there was a picture of their home for the past two years with the caption “Bye house.”

They had moved into mom’s place following her death. The kids did a surprising amount of work on it, considering they were unlikely to be there more than two years. Besides painting most of the house, they did a complete overhaul of the kitchen and one of the bathrooms.

My folks bought the house in 2000 when they left their farm home near Burns, Kansas. The farm had been my home too before I left for college and it was my dad’s parents’ home before that. The house here in Manhattan will now be sold and we have talked about selling the farm house as well because there is little joy in being a landlord. But selling also means that our connections to so many events will become just a bit more tenuous. Our family and friends celebrated many graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, Independence Days, Christmas holidays and Easters in those homes.

This recent “bye” had been brewing from the time Matt accepted a job offer last fall. What I was not expecting was how Katie’s use of the word "house" struck me. With the removal of their personal items and a place already secured in Albuquerque to receive them, their home here had changed in a short time into being just a house. A similar change occurred that fall day in October when we loaded the last of Mom and Dad things into the truck for the move to Manhattan. My Burns home became just a house.

One day years ago when Katie was perhaps 10 or 12, she came bouncing into the living room, as she was prone to do, and seemingly out of the blue declared that our home was “the best house ever.” It made us laugh as it certainly didn’t qualify as anything special. Still, it was the only place she had ever known as home, so her proclamation was understandable.

It made me think of a line from an Edgar Guest poem. He was a Detroit newspaperman who became immensely popular in the early part of the last century, with a widely-syndicated column and best-selling books of poetry. He is now largely forgotten, perhaps because his folksy writing style today seems woefully dated. Yet his observations about everyday life are as fresh today as when he was alive. Perhaps his most famous poem was titled “Home” and its first line, rewritten slightly by years of repeating, is “It takes a heap of living to make a house a home.” A house is a place, but a home is a state of mind connected to a particular place.

Matt grew up in a military family and has moved quite often. Others I have known who have moved frequently don’t appear to have the same emotional connection with the word “home” as those of us who were more rooted. This may be because the settings for the important events in their lives were geographically spread and so do nothing to connect those memories together.

But for me, the family farm near Burns is a common link that connects graduating from high school, going to college, taking off on my Peace Corps adventure, getting married to first husband Jerome, sister Gaila marrying Humberto and many other milestones.

Art has lived in 11 different places in his life. Daughter Mariya is already at five and she is only 31. But Art said he had reached 10 by the time he was 27. However, he only considers two of those to be homes. The others were just places he lived.

I’ve lived in quite a few places as well, but the number I consider as homes is also pretty small. When Art and I married, we moved into his place and now it has been our home for 30 years - almost half my life. I agree with him that it isn’t much of a house, but it has been a great home.

A few days after the kids left, I told Art there was a card on the counter for him to sign. “For what?” he asked. I explained it was a “welcome to your new home” card for the kids. He just laughed and said, “They’re just renting it.”

But he understood.

Mariya bought a place a couple of years ago and she and fianceé Miriam seem to be doing something every day to make it truly their place - to make it their home. They already hosted a family Christmas and other family events as well. Katie and Matt’s place will more likely be a home away from home as they will buy a place if they decide to stay in Albuquerque or else move on.

A few days ago, Katie texted that their things had arrived. She was excited to have her car again and relieved they no longer had to sleep in their camping bedroll, commenting, “Bedz r goood.” and, “Starting to feel like a home.”

And so the cycle of life continues. The home they left behind is now just a house, while the house they are moving into will become their home. Poet Guest’s sentiment about the difference between the two is accurate. Another familiar saying may be be even more to the point - “Home is where the heart is!”

(left and top-middle) Matt and Katie say "Bye" to their home ... or house ... of the past two years and say "Hello" (bottom-middle and right) to their new place in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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