Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home”, clicked her red slippers, and magically returned home. In World War II, with soldiers overseas, Bing Crosby crooned, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my heart.”
By Holly Kennedy
Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home”, clicked her red slippers, and magically returned home. In World War II, with soldiers overseas, Bing Crosby crooned, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my heart.” As I send two college-age children back to campus after celebrating Thanksgiving in our fifth temporary home since August 28, and face another month of our construction crew working during the Christmas season, I am somewhere between wishing for a pair of red slippers and redefining what it means to be home for the holidays.
Construction surrounds us. We have cleaners, carpenters, electricians, site surveyors, cabinetmakers, tile and granite repairers, plumbers, and painters. We’re a team, although I’m the odd man out being the only one who doesn’t speak Polish, have any tangible construction skills, and isn’t male. We laugh and discuss progress and colors, and I learn about my old house, built in 1929.
We are not alone. I know of eight other Rye families out of their homes right now.
The elderly couple that lives across the street is staying with one of their adult children. A young couple welcomed their third child into the world while living in a temporary hotel room. A family with toddlers lives in an apartment downtown, while a third is moving to a nearby town for six months. Another neighbor with four young children is living in two rooms in a nearby building. Dozens of residents in the large apartment building near the train station were homeless for months, and across town several families are not in their homes.
My college-age children came “home” for Thanksgiving. As our friend’s generously loaned cottage in Greenwich didn’t have sleeping room for five, we celebrated in another loaned friend’s house back in Rye. Our son, who had considered coming home early because his exams ended the week before Thanksgiving, waited until “home” meant he’d have a bed to sleep in. However, his phone-based GPS died on the way back, and he couldn’t find us, so he slept on a friend’s floor. Our daughter adapted to returning to her hometown, but not being home.
Our high school senior was confronted with the fact that home for Thanksgiving meant her siblings were in-residence but not in the home she was hoping for.
Celebrating Thanksgiving at home this year meant our entire family was together sharing a meal for the first time since the summer floods. We were grateful for the simple pleasure of having dinner with people we loved, no matter whose home it actually was. We toasted to “home is where the heart is” and were grateful for the generosity of friends who have been helping us all these months.
Construction during the holidays is stressful no matter what. Traditions are disrupted. Life is topsy-turvy, and dusty. Nothing is in its regular place.
Every time I cross a threshold, however, I am reminded that home is really where my heart is. Creating temporary homes has afforded me the greatest gift of all: the understanding that what matters most is the people in your life, and the moments you share. I’ve also learned it is good to go with the flow, be flexible, and not aim for perfection. Those are the gifts I will treasure this Christmas.
I’m not certain my children completely agree with my definition of home, or of these theoretical gifts. They are willing to put up with my ruminations but they made it clear that for Christmas they really, really want to be home — as in their own beds, with tangible presents under a tree.
That’s okay. At their age, I would feel the same way. But this year, I think I’ll just be grateful for the gift of home, no matter where it is. The next few weeks will be devoted to putting everything back in its place. Making our house a home again. And I’ll be sure to get a tree.