I took our kitten, Rossfeld, outside to play for the first time since we adopted him some six months ago. My maternal instincts kicked in with fear for his safety, and the accompanying thought that I really don’t want him to leave home. I’m not ready for that to happen. So I picked him up several times, hugged and petted him, telling him (yes, talking to my cat) to be careful and watch out for cars.
It should be no surprise that I’m a cat lover. In my home of origin we had lots of cats over the years, and I loved every one. Here I am today, clinging to this kitten that I allowed outside to play, to explore. He stayed out for about fifteen minutes, then chose to come back inside, safe and sound, to his sanctuary. In here he can watch those birds and squirrels from the safety of a window sill, with a bit of screen or glass to keep him in, protected.
A part of home goes with us when we leave, like it or not. I hope that we take with us a deep sense of love and belonging, but, sadly, I know this is not always the case. Many of us will, however, take and carry on some traditions of home, a favorite meal, a certain routine, a way of arranging our spaces, and sometimes even the faith tradition that molded and shaped us. There are those who shut the door, step out into the world and never look back, while some keep the key and are welcomed back any time. For myself, a healthy mix of all these sentiments is what I experienced. When it was time to go I tried to take the best of what I learned, but was ready to spread my wings and fly.
Leaving home is not like leaving the house to go to the store, or for a walk, or to work, and it’s not the same as taking a vacation. Leaving home is not always about a house or apartment, or condo, or any structure where you have existed and slept and ate. That’s because home is not always a well defined place.
Home is Sanctuary, where love and belonging draw you in and hold you, a place created by those who love us as we are. Home is dynamic, changing in each phase of our lives, changing as we ourselves change.
Leaving Home in 1973, at the age of 18 was relatively easy because I was ready to move on and move out…and I only moved a few blocks away as a young newlywed. I may not have lived under the same roof, but I was in the same small town as my own family….a blessing that I did not appreciate until I grew up a bit.
But many years later, in 1998, Leaving Home was much harder than I imagined it would ever be, because I was a different person. I had been married, had two wonderful children, divorced, and later remarried. I had seen my grandparents live a full life and die there, watched as my own parents made a move to a different state to live out the rest of their lives. Love had found it’s way into my heart again, much to my surprise. My own children had grown up where I had, gone on to college, my son was living away from home already, and my daughter chose to continue her life there, as I left for another state, too, with my husband. Everyone I knew, all the people who had been there and seen us through life to that point, those who loved and gave us that sense of belonging were staying…and I was leaving. Gut wrenching is the phrase that comes to mind.
I wonder if we Leave Home by degrees, just a little bit at a time. Recently I have decided that my Chatty Baby doll is going to have to be recycled. She is broken and not fixable. I have held on to her for all these years because I wanted to remember being that happy child, playing dolls, playing mommy. But reality, actually being a real Mommy to a son and daughter who are amazing young people…nothing can top that.
Having a home as a child where I could play and pretend and see love in action is a priceless treasure. Letting go of the doll is another bit of letting go, of Leaving Home.