I’ve been thinking about something my mom said.
I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. I wasn’t born there. And I haven’t lived there for years, but it is the place I think of as my hometown. Like a lot of people, my brothers and I moved away from home. School, career and other life events took us other places.
I had moved to Topeka. During the holiday break we would make the trip back home for Christmas. That year, I flew into Louisville, planning to meet up with the rest of the family, who had gone ahead of me and were headed to my in-laws. I rented a car and drove to my parents’ place. Rodney came up from Atlanta. My folks had gone to the Wendell Foster Campus in Owensboro to bring Daniel home for a visit. So, the five of us were together on Christmas Eve. My mother remarked, “it’s been a long time since all my boys were home at the same time.” I think that was the last time we all spent the night under the same roof.
It’s been more than 20 years since that Christmas Eve, and all the years since have included visits with family. The kids have grown up, moved out, started families of their own. Work schedules and family obligations sometimes meant getting together a day or two before, or a day or two after, the actual holiday. An ice storm kept us apart one winter, and COVID-19 meant we “Zoomed” last year, with one person in quarantine and all of us sitting in front of our laptops or smartphones. But somehow, we found a way to be together.
This year we look forward to seeing each other in person again. We have gotten our vaccines. We figured out how much time we can take off from work. We shopped. And planned menus. There are gifts and wrapping paper and that last roll of magic tape. Buffy breaks out her candy molds and cake pans. It will be good to be home.
But home will be different. My parents no longer own the house with the acreage. We have all moved multiple times in the years since my brothers and I last spent Christmas Eve sleeping under the same roof. There have been marriages and divorces, births and funerals. New faces and new traditions. This year we will gather in a house that was only a vacant lot one year ago. But we will all be home.
According to Wikipedia, home is “a space used as a permanent or semi-permanent residence for an individual, group or family.” For many of us, it is impossible to separate our memories of holidays past from the places they occurred. But home is not just a street address. It is a grounding in time and place, a connection to friends and family. It is part of what makes us, and a place where we can be ourselves. Our definitions of home may vary, but we are united by the desire to be there, and to reconnect with the places and people that are part of it.
Home was top of mind for our founder, Benjamin Rose. In establishing the trust that bears his name, he shared the story of a colleague who had fallen on hard times in his later years. Benjamin Rose established an endowment, “. . .for the relief and assistance of needy, aged people. . .to enable them to stay in their homes and maintain their comfort and dignity.” Over the years, the services have grown and evolved, but always with a focus on supporting people and their ability to be home, not just at the holidays, but all year long.