October 2018

On the Meaning of Home

Author: Kent Thune

Dorothy was right. There’s no place like home. But what makes home so special? Ask 10 people what home means to them and you’ll get 10 different answers. And if we could go back somewhere over the rainbow and ask Dorothy to explain in detail her affinity and affection for the place she called home, we’d get much more than just those five words.

Home always begins as a physical location. When searching for a new home with your Realtor, you’re not really looking for a home; you’re primarily looking for a house. Your “must haves” might include spacious closets, modern kitchen appliances, and hardwood floors. But you’re not imagining how your kids will play hide-and-seek in the closets, or how you’ll cook the annual Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen, or how your future dog that the kids begged you for will scratch the floors.

Your house begins to become a home the minute you start living in it. The family pictures you hang on the wall will tell their stories for years or decades; the front yard may be the place your kids learn to catch a ball or their first firefly; the backyard may be the place that same child exchanges wedding vows with his or her future life partner; the living room is where you’ll share conversations with friends and loved ones; and your bedroom is where you’ll thank God for a warm and dry home on a cold, rainy night.

If you’re not at home now, and you’re ready to return in your mind, these quotes may help to bring you there:

“There are a thousand ways to go home again.” ~ Rumi
“Where thou art, that is home.” ~ Emily Dickenson
“I’d rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.” ~ George Washington
“Home is the nicest word there is.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” ~ Robert Frost
“Drinking is so much better at home because there is no last call and I can be naked.” ~ Author Unknown
“A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“…the truth is that the home is the only place of liberty, the only spot on earth where a man can alter arrangements suddenly, make an experiment on indulging in a whim. The home is not the one tame place in a world of adventure; it is the one wild place in a world of rules and set tasks.” ~ G.K. Chesterson

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” ~ L. Frank Baum

Of course, you don’t need a poet, a philosopher, or a magazine article to tell you what home means. The meaning is purely subjective and can be fully felt and expressed by anyone old enough to communicate their feelings and thoughts. However, most of us have similar descriptions and ideas about the meaning of home that can be summarized in a few simple ways.

Home is where your story begins. Your earliest and perhaps greatest memories you have are probably of the first place you called home and the community around it. It’s where the first chapter in the book of your life was written.

Home is where the heart is. If you have a significant other or if you have children (or both), your meaning of home may be defined by their presence. Their voices, bodies and daily routines fill the space with life and love. If the family moves to another house, home will follow you and your family there. For some people, especially those who never moved when growing up, home is always that place they return to after they finally move away. It’s the place where they return for family gatherings during the holidays or other special occasions.

Home is your sanctuary. If there’s one place in the world where you feel safe, it’s home. The walls physically protect you from the elements. But more important, you can be or say what you want, and the eyes and ears of the outside world are not there to judge or criticize your unkempt hair, your crazy pajamas, or your off-key singing. At times, home may be the only place you feel welcome, especially if you have family, pets, or a crockpot dinner there to greet you when you return from a long day at work or school.

Home is where memories are made. Just the thought of home can instantly bring back some of the best memories of your life. Think of that place now and the memories will come back clearly, as if they were yesterday: your first friends, your first solo bike ride, and your first date. You may also think of everyday sights, sounds, and smells, such as the layout of your bedroom, the melodies and lyrics of your favorite songs as a teenager, and the delicious aroma of your mom’s cooking the moment it would penetrate your bedroom door.

Home is not a place; it’s a feeling. This statement likely summarizes the collective meanings we all have of home. Above all, the meaning of home, for most of us, goes far beyond the physical realm—the feelings of nostalgia surrounding the memories you made in the past, how you feel when you pull into the driveway after a long vacation, and the feeling of security and excitement about what the future may bring in your home and the new memories you’ll make.

If you’re not home by now, perhaps you can follow the simple advice from Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, given to Dorothy: “Close your eyes, tap your heels together three times, and think to yourself, ‘There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home’…” and you’ll be there.

Kent Thune is a Certified Financial Planner® and is the owner of a Hilton Head Island investment advisory firm, Atlantic Capital Investments. He is also a personal financial counselor to Marines and other service members on Parris Island. Thune’s financial guidance has been published at The Motley Fool, Yahoo Finance, Kiplinger.com, MarketWatch.com, Nasdaq.com, InvestorPlace.com, and his own blog at TheFinancialPhilosopher.com.

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