I have noticed that I use the word "home" quite a lot, and a casual listener might be rather confused since I have several different places I refer to as "home". So I've been thinking often about what home is, what it means, and where it is.
A funny incident happened at the Stuttgart airport a few weeks ago as the Sheboygan and Esslingen students were checking in at the Delta counter for our flight to Wisconsin, which illustrates how the term "home" can lead to confusion. The six Sheboygan students and their chaperone had just finished their three weeks in Esslingen, and the six Esslingen students and I were joining them on the flight back to spend three weeks in Wisconsin. During those silly security questions one is asked before flying into the U.S., one of the Sheboygan students was asked where he packed his suitcase. He said, "At home." The interrogator asked if he was from Germany, and the lad said, "No, from America." "Then what do you mean you packed your suitcase 'at home'?" inquired the confused woman. "Oh," the lad said, "I meant at my German home." I thought that was precious - after only three weeks, this American boy was already referring to his host family's home as "home".
In my 44 years of life I have lived in thirteen places, including an Air Force base apartment, several houses, a host family's home, a college dorm, a duplex, and a condo. Martin, in contrast, has lived in four. Although he is just one example, Germans do tend to move around less frequently than Americans. We are both fairly certain that the count stops here, because our next planned move is to a grassy plot in the churchyard several blocks away.
Since I've moved here, I have referred to returning to Wisconsin as "going home" several times. That doesn't feel right, because my home is here now. As soon as I arrive in Wisconsin, "home" is Bildechingen. Sometimes, though, "home" is my parents' house, where I stay while in Wisconsin. I might be running errands with my mom when she asks, "Do you want to stop at Kohl's?" "No," I say, "Let's just go home and get dinner started." My parents live in a house that was never my home because I never lived there (they moved out of my childhood home about 13 years ago), and yet one definition of "home" for me is where my parents live.
I'd say my hometown is Sheboygan, Wisconsin, because I grew up there. I spent seventeen of my adult years in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, but now that I have left, I do not feel that town is "home".
So what is "home"?
"Home is where the heart is."
Yeah, ok. Too sappy for me. My heart is occasionally buried deep in the Zwiebelrostbraten I'm eating, which is too delicious for description.
"Home is the nicest word there is." ~Laura Ingalls Wilder
For many people, maybe. Not so for many, many others.
"Home is a place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." ~Robert Frost, "The Death of the Hired Man"
There's great truth in that one, though again, I don't think it fits as a universal definition.
Perhaps it is just not that easy to define. Some say that home is the people we love. In her novel, What Happened to Goodbye, Sarah Dessen wrote, "“Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” " I've never read that or any other book by Dessen, but the definition seems appropriate to an extent. However, my parents have a cottage in northern Wisconsin where the immediate and extended family has gathered many times and we've made lots of memories, but I've never called it "home".
In the end, I'd have to say that "home" for me is where I feel I belong. Where I am most comfortable, where the coffee tastes just right, where the bed is the most comfortable, and where love and gratitude thrive. That, for me, is here in Bildechingen. I appreciate the time I get to spend with family and friends in Wisconsin, the coffee is fine, the bed is comfortable enough, and there is definitely gratitude and love. But after several trips this year - even day trips to Esslingen - I know that this is my home. I love the view I have of Horb as the train pulls into the station (it's the background image of my blog), and I can't help but grin at the warm fuzzy feeling every time I return. This is our house, our garden, our street, and our town. And our home.