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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Tate

Longing for Home

When I was a freshman in college I went home from Austin to Midland, Texas, every six weeks. The dorm was fine, my roommate was great but It was hard to be away from my family and all the things that make up a home. As I got older the idea of home changed, sometimes feeling a little more elusive. When my kids were young, my parents moved from being 6 hours away to across the ocean in England. My dad was a geologist and went to work with a team in Kazakhstan that would be based in London. I had not lived at home in a decade but felt the loss of that space when they moved. More than anything I knew I'd miss their physical presence in the life of our young family. I was homesick.

I was in my early thirties when my parents died and home felt lost even though I was a married woman and a mother with my own home and people to tend. After my parents both passed away, my sister and I went on a trip "home" to upstate New York. We stayed in a bed and breakfast in Hammondsport, the small town where our parents were married. We visited our mom's best friend, Penny. We toured our favorite Finger Lakes winery, Bully Hill Vineyards, where we'd eaten lunches and grape pie as kids when we went "home" during summer vacation with our parents. This time, as adults, we toured the winery and sent a case of wine back to Texas to split. I caught glimpses of days past and it was so nostalgic, but it was also incredibly painful because we were there without our folks and I missed them so. Homesick again.

When our youngest graduated from high school, we sold the home in Austin, Texas the kids had lived in most of their lives and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. We had six weeks during summer to make the new place home. We did all the touristy things and tried all the restaurants. We were intentional about building memories to add emotional connection to a place none of us knew. At the end of the summer, we returned the oldest one to Texas at Southwestern University and we sent the youngest off to Mississippi State University. The oldest one felt like we'd abandoned her. I get it, we kind of did! But, our absence from Texas created space for another kind of home creation - my sister and her husband did an incredible job of filling that void - visits, overnights, food - it was everything a mother could want for her homesick girl.

This week we were presented with a new opportunity. A family has expressed interest in renting our home in Chattanooga for an extended time. As my sister in law said, "Congrats, I'm sorry." It's both. Our home could be someone else's home soon and we are all feeling angst and at times an unrelenting sense of homesickness.

Our youngest was on board this week and it was high praise to hear her say the boat feels homier than it did when we were in Chattanooga. I am grateful. We've promised both girls we'll get them to the boat when they want to come home. This desire for home is tied to place, but it isn't always fulfilled by a place. Home is scents, food, hugs, sounds, laughter, quiet in the chaos, coffee, cozy quilts, tangible experiences of comfort and safety and caring. While we aren't at our house right now, we have these things at home on the boat and we'll have them wherever we land after. Home to me is where my peeps are. Without a doubt, I'm writing this as much as a reminder to myself and the girls as we seek to fill up our sense of home as I am for any of you wonderful friends sharing our journey. I'm wishing all of us a deep knowing of home, however and wherever we make it or find it.

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