COLUMBIA — It's a well-worn cliche and people use it all the time, but it's actually a fact: There really is no place like home. Think about it. It doesn't matter whether you've had a marvelous day or a lousy one. Just having a closed space where you can walk inside, close the door behind you, peel off all of your masks and costumes and collapse in your favorite chair is nothing short of divine.
For most of my life, home was my mother's house. Even after I moved away, it was a place that was always kept in order, no matter what time of the day or night I turned up. Noise was always at a minimum There was always comfort food in the refrigerator and a warm bed to sleep in. My mother's ears were always open to hearing whatever I had to say. For me, there was no place else like that in the world.
I was lucky. I had an example to follow, and I've worked hard to create a safe haven for the people I care about. I think it's worked. When I answer my door, I never know who might be standing on the threshold. One time it was friend who happened to be a state official who suddenly got fired. He came with his wife seeking solace. Most of the time the people that come knocking are just ordinary people seeking a listener for the story they have to tell.
One of the things I miss about home is that it's really amazing, how few people really take the time to hear people out. Some days I think a lot of people have forgotten what it's like to be a friend. Personally, I know hundreds of people, but I can count the ones on one hand that I call when I really want to share things close to my heart. Don't get me wrong here. Most of the people I know are good people. They are just not the people I would feel comfortable confiding in. In other words they don't make me feel that I'm at home in their presence.
Actually, I've probably been spoiled. When my son was growing up, we were surrounded by neighbors who knew how to make homes out of the places where they lived. Whatever was needed could be provided. If one was tired there would be a comfortable bed to sleep in, a meal was always warming on the stove. And there was mental stimulation provided by meaningful conversations about things that mattered. Neighbors had hobbies and helped their neighbors at whatever was needed. I actually had people willing to come and clean my house for free if I needed them. My neighbors knew that I could be called at any time day or night, in case of emergency. That lifestyle went away as neighbors got ill and went into nursing homes or moved away to be near their families.
But when you grow up in a sharing community with those around you, it's hard to break the habit. It's hard living next to people who never wish you a good morning or a good night. I have a hard time understanding people who get insulted if you suggest that it's a nice day. Whatever it is that has taken root in our neighborhoods and communities that decimated our spirits is not a good thing.
Occasionally, friends will suggest that I could live alone on top of a mountain and never notice it because I spend so much time in my own head thinking about and analyzing the world around me, but that's not true. I'm just not one to engage in a lot of frivolity. I'm very conscious of time and the importance of it.
That's why I find home to be such an important place. I am concerned that the quality of our lives is being drained away. I find things such as families not sitting down to dinner together, not spending recreational time together, not confiding in each other, sad and disappointing.
So much of our lives we spend as strangers to each other and to our neighbors. If we had to put an epitaph on the headstone of someone we have worked with for 30 years we would probably discover that all we really knew about that person is that he was born, got married, had children and died.
Maybe, home is the last place where we can still be human.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.