By Pamela Noel
Special to Plumas News
“Home is the place that, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” So said Robert Frost about the place many of us think of as home. There is some truth to this, but also many exceptions. The ties that bind us to the place called home can be strong, if not in reality…in our dreams, aspirations, memories, and feelings.
Home for my brother will always be a certain address in Santa Rosa, California. That is one of two places we grew up, playing in the cemetery across the street, skating on the sidewalks outside of Town and Country Market, our skate keys tied to strings around our necks. It is the place where we learned to ride bicycles, build tree forts, swim at the neighborhood pool, and make the difficult transition through junior high and high school to finally become fully-fledged humans. It is the place where we knew we could always return if needed.
I have lived many places—Santa Rosa, Inverness, Quincy, San Luis Obispo, Merced, Visalia, Dallas, Newport News, and South Lake Tahoe. Each time I have moved—usually because of school or career—I fully committed myself to that place, albeit temporarily at times. I felt at home. It was not difficult for me to adopt the four walls, in which I was ensconced, as the most important place that sheltered and protected me. And, in each place, before too long, I had a community that embraced me with a greater and truer feeling of home.
Of course, some places felt more truly “home-like” and nurturing. What aspects of my favorite “home places” made them feel like home to me? Forests and trees, the ocean, and rolling hills all give me the feeling of home in nature. But when I do need to come inside, what do these four walls mean to me? Safety, shelter from the elements, a place to eat and sleep, family at certain stages, but also a place in which some of my creative aspects can express themselves and thrive. As an adult, I put what I want on the walls, the floor, and even at times, fences and trees. I arrange and re-arrange the furniture to my liking. I create a nest that nurtures and sustains me…an expression of “comfort and joy” in myself and my surroundings.
It takes time to learn a place…to uncover the stories it holds. As a child, I roamed hidden back trails that connected the roads in a village on Tomales Bay near Point Reyes. Awakening at dawn, my little brother and I made our way down to the mudflats behind the Inverness store. Here we walked out into the muddy low- tide bay, listening to the sucking noises our boots made as they came out of the mud, looking for the next step. We then would wander into the post office where everyone gathered their mail. As children we were amazed at all the rubber bands on the floor, discarded from newspapers, placed in the post office boxes, people eager to see the front page before leaving the building. Collecting these rubber bands, they became resources to make balls, rubber band guns, and our own versions of cat’s cradle.
Our next wander took us up Inverness Creek, back towards home on the mesa, covered with the scent of Bay Laurel trees. There we would eat breakfast, await the burning away of fog, and decide our next adventure…usually involving creek, bay, or ocean.
My mother often reminded us that “Home is where the heart is,” meaning family to her. And that rings true for me, although the composition of family can often look different. There certainly is no one way to do it.
I no longer have my original family with me where I live, but I do have a community that has become my family…that gives me that feeling of home. We share laughter and tears. We share birthdays and the vulnerabilities that we acquire along the way. We hike these mountain trails together. And, though, unlike Robert Frost’s vision of home, they don’t have to take me in, I feel that, in their hearts, they always will.