But even when a home is filled with love and good intentions, sometimes finding peace in the moment remains so elusive.
How strange that we are just placed (born) into these family units with one another and, yet, our differences and our similarities make it so hard for us to get along day in and day out over the years. Familiarity brings challenges, even when we want to maintain that peace.
Our pasts together and personality quirks are so complicated. And then there are the circumstances into which we are born, ranging from simple birth order factors to the family’s mood at the time of our arrival. During hard times, war, illness, or following death, children still arrive. Life in a family is not easy, even in the best of times, but it’s all that any of us knows in our early years. But with any luck, we will continue to know family life throughout all our years, regardless of the challenges it brings us.
Despite my growing up with only my parents and one brother, I come from a large extended family. My past is filled from memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases and summer visits to my grandparents’ home—a home where all my aunts and uncles and cousins would gather in noisy groups—and in my dreams I still return to that mythical home where I gather once more with those people who were so important to who I am and who I became. Those sorts of dreams come also to my relatives in their sleep. This sense of home is definitely with us when we gather in other places, but we have never truly dreamed we could return to the house that cradled us and shaped us so.
That is we thought we could never return . . . until my cousin and her husband realized the dream of buying back the house that had passed from our family over 30 years ago.
After over a year of a whole lot of elbow grease, blood, sweat, tears, and money, the house is again the home of our dreams. When my cousin called us home to our recent Christmas in July reunion, the house—and our ability to gather together in it—was a present like no other.
I would love to tell you that the dream realized was all twinkly lights and laughter and hugs and songs sung in perfect harmony and moments captured in picture perfect clarity. It was all that and more, and, yet, as in any family, sour notes remain: sibling discord, marriages dissolved, children who won’t sleep, favoritism, regrets, and disagreements over shared history. What’s past is not often past.
The truth is I did leave swathed in a feeling not unlike the sunshine that streamed through the large windows or the peacefulness that came to me as I took in the bucolic views from those windows. I chose to feel the love—which is real and huge and something I know not everyone gets to feel in this life—and also chose to push away the cobwebs that lurked in the dark corners because I realize I am lucky enough that those cobwebs are only a small part of this thing called family in my life.
And, yet, my own home is also a microcosm of that larger family home. The love here is real and huge and something not everyone gets to experience. But sometimes the reality of who we are together and alone is simply too hard to bear. We forget that together we are the protection for one another from what happens outside our homes and instead project what others have done to us on those who love us most. And despite our best intentions, so often we cannot figure out how to be ourselves without hurting one another. In those moments our home becomes just another house.
The real dream of my grandparents’ house or my house or of any house will be that the house can be the peaceful space we can call home: that feeling that comes in those moments when family members forget or minimize any differences and just give into the love that binds us together.
Blest be the ties that bind our hearts and bring about fellowship of kindred minds—and remind us just why peace in our families—no matter how imperfect the peace or the family—is what really makes a house a home.