Sense Of Place And Regret

I’m thinking about home more than I ever have. Not just as a place I sleep, store my stuff or come back to. Pay rent, or mortgage or watch TV. I’ve had those before, without ever having a home.

I mean “home” as an idea, as solace and future and, I hope, soon, a past. Maybe I mean roots, where the weight of our collective history add safety, surety, and a sense of place.

“Sense of place” is one of those high school lit terms that seemed so important when I wrote a comparison/contrast essay, and now I’m not sure what it ever meant. Eventually, it’s no longer some lofty idea implied by an author or inferred by a reader, but an actual address, where my daughter’s crib will reside and my wife and I will rest, wake, and live.

I have to admit failure here. Maybe, if I really consider it, the biggest failure of my newer life, these last 8 years. I once had a house, but that house was part and parcel with the marriage crumbling within it. Not the house’s fault, mind you, but it belonged to the marriage, not to me. So I gave it up.

The failure came after, as I worked, rented, and couldn’t imagine how to live with any sense of permanence. I gave up the idea of a home, a place, and just stayed in a shelter. Maybe it was shelter from a storm, but it wasn’t much more.

And then I fell in  love, fell into a new life, and stared at the scattered remnants of the shelter I’d camped in for 5 years, and knew, suddenly, I’d been without a place for all that time.

So we began our life together, Jessica in a whirlwind looking for stability, and I, with my thus-unknown regret surfacing in strange ways, looking to give our new life the weight of history before we actually had it. I wanted that upper-case, big idea “Home,” but we hadn’t built the foundation yet. I was nailing 2×4’s and sticking them into the ground.

So, I got ahead of myself, but I had no idea I was ahead of myself, so we argued (past tense is hopeful, but present tense is still true), and live and love (all present tense, thank you very much) and slowly, much slower than I knew, the weight and history attach to Jessica and I, not to a place, a building, a roof. Which is as it should be; she and I are the core of our place. Walls are transitory, even when well-loved.

But I think it’s easier when you’re in the right place. Not automatic, not simple, just easier. And my regret is not creating that place for myself–and thus for us–before I met my beautiful wife. I left myself bereft of a place, but I didn’t know it.

And so we’re here, not in our “place” quite yet, but building together, making our home something that’s between us. Someday the walls will be permanent, but right now, we know there’s room on them for hand prints from a baby, room on the floor to play, and space to love.

I’ll take the space to love and forget the rest, any day of the week.


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