Almost every movie lover will recognize the title of this post comes from the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz.[i] I have thought a lot about home the last few weeks as my wife and I moved out of our dream home into a one-bedroom apartment. We went from this:
I don’t own any ruby slippers, but I have wished several times since the move I could click my heels three times and return to that dream home. But upon further reflection, I realize, even though our little apartment has less than 800 square feet, it has everything I need: food, shelter, clothing, air conditioning(!), and more importantly, a spouse who loves me unconditionally and other family members and friends close by.
So why did we leave our beautiful home for a small one bedroom apartment? Someone once quipped, “Home is where the mortgage is.” But we didn’t move because we couldn’t make the mortgage payments. As far as I know, my job is secure – at least for another year. My company recently announced it was moving its offices from Fort Worth to Houston next summer. That is another good reason for me to retire when that move occurs. Instead of moving to Houston, we hope to build a new, but smaller, dream home closer to most of our adult children and grandchildren. So there is some method in our madness.
My decision to move was entirely my own choice. Most of my fellow employees, however, are not so lucky. The company announcement has caused a lot of angst around the office, as my fellow employees must decide if they want to leave their current homes to keep their current jobs and create a new home in Houston. Notice I didn’t say “find” a new home, as I believe homes are more than just brick and mortar. A home, where we feel love and acceptance and hopefully safety, is created by the people living in it. Kendal Rob said it this way: “Home is where you go to find solace from the ever changing chaos, to find love within the confines of a heartless world, and to be reminded that no matter how far you wander, there will always be something [or someone] waiting when you return.” That is pretty much how Dorothy felt in The Wizard of Oz,[ii] when she makes it back to Kansas:
Movies often center around the home, and some of the best ones, like The Wizard of Oz, focus on finding a way to get back home, or, if we can’t get there immediately, at least making some kind of contact with those at home. Who doesn’t remember this scene from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial:[iii]
George A. Moore said, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” I enjoy traveling to fun places, but I must admit that usually the best part of any trip for me is returning home. There is no better way to appreciate our homes than to be away from them for a while. But it’s not the house that I miss as much as the home. When I drive by houses I used to live in, I am often reminded of some great memories and experiences I had there, but the feelings of love, comfort and safety I experienced while living there have moved along with me, turning that prior home into just a house again – at least to me. Anyone can build a house, but love is the most important ingredient in building a home.
Many people have left home because they felt no love there. And without that feeling of love, all other pleasures of a house are largely meaningless. I recently saw the movie, The Glass Castle,[iv] based on the memoirs of Jeannette Walls, growing up in a dysfunctional family. I was interested in seeing it particularly because I had read the book upon which it is based. Here is a scene from the movie where the family moves into a “new” house, which is a lot nicer (believe it or not) than many of the other houses they had previously lived in:
The movie does not do justice to the abuse the parents put their children through, forcing them to live in places that had no running water or indoor plumbing. But even in such squalor, there were times when love among the family was felt, especially among the four children who had to band together just to survive.
Even sadder are those who have been forced to leave a loving home and functional family, but circumstances will not let them return. One of my favorite movies from last year is Lion,[v] based on the true story of a five-year-old Indian boy name Saroo who is separated from his family, and adopted by a loving Australian couple. Despite the love he feels from his adoptive family, Saroo sets out to find his lost family, 25 years after his separation from them. The problem is, he doesn’t know where to find them. Through Google Earth and tracing possible train routes within a giant circle he has drawn on map, he searches for the village of his childhood. After many failed searches, one day he starts looking outside the circle, and discovers a hillside that causes a flashback of memories. This is followed by finding a river that he remembers he used to swim in. This leads him to a train station with a water tower behind it he remembers, and ultimately to the village he grew up in. He has found his first home. Here is the emotional scene where he returns to that home and is reunited with his birth family:
Gratefully, few of us have to live in abject poverty like Jeannette Walls did in The Glass Castle or spend years from our home and family like Saroo did in Lion. But what kind of home are we making for ourselves and our family? Is it that place of love, respect and trust? Is it that place where all family members can rest from the scars of the outside world? Where everyone’s opinions are respected, even if they differ from our own? Let us remember that the richest, most priceless possessions we have on this earth is the great love we have (or at least should have) for a family member.
While I’m no expert, here are a few suggestions on how to help make your house a home:
- Create family rituals and traditions, from game nights and (of course) movie nights, to special ways to celebrate birthdays and holidays.
- Eat at least one meal a day as a family, and turn off social media and just talk to each other (as painful as that can be sometimes!). If you don’t know what to talk about, try having each family member tell three good things that happened to them that day. It will help your family develop an attitude of gratitude, and grateful people are generally happier than those who are not.
- Do chores and other projects together, which helps our children become self-sufficient. Your kids will complain about doing their own laundry and cleaning their bathrooms, but one day they will thank you for teaching them those skills – at least ours did.
- Provide a place (bedroom or otherwise) where a family member can just go and be alone for a while, and respect that space by asking permission to enter it.
- Collect or create family collections and heirlooms, whether it be “art” on the refrigerator door or souvenirs from family vacations.
- Share your home with extended family and friends.
- Enforce family rules that make sense for safety and respect of others’ property and rights, but at the same time allow each family member as much freedom as practicable to express their own individuality.
- Find something each day to laugh about. Nothing is better for the soul than a good belly laugh. But be careful you are laughing with someone, not about someone.
By making a comment to this post, I would love others to share things their families did (or are doing) to help make their house a home.
Be it ever so humble, there truly is no place like home, and a happy home is but an early heaven.
[i] The phrase, “There’s no place like home,” first appeared in the John Howard Paine song, “Home, Sweet Home,” written in 1822. The first two lines of the song read: “Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”
[ii] The Wizard of Oz
- Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
- Director: Victor Fleming
- Screenwriter: Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson
- Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger
- Release date: August 25, 1939
[iii] E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
- Production Company: Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment
- Director: Stephen Spielberg
- Screenwriter: Melissa Mathison
- Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote
- Release date: June 11, 1982
[iv]The Glass Castle
- Production Companies: Lionsgate, Netter Productions
- Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
- Screenwriter: Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham, based on the book by Jeannette Walls
- Starring: Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts
- Release date: August 11, 2017
- Production Companies: The Weinstein Company, Screen Australia and See-Saw Films
- Director: Garth Davis
- Screenwriter: Luke Davies, adapted from the book by Saroo Brierley
- Starring: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara
- Release date: January 6, 2017