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You Can Take it with You

by Kristin Witt

volunteer firefighters in Colorado     It was 1908, in the dead of a Minnesota winter, when my grandfather woke to their house on fire.  Just fifteen at the time, his parents away from home, he grabbed his baby sister and escaped the engulfing flames, running in sub-zero temperatures, barefoot, to the neighbors’ house that was just over a mile down the road.  The fire completed the devastation leaving their home a pile of ash and lost treasures.  But when grandpa spoke of the incident in later years he made the statement that “God had protected them from losing anything important”.

In defining “home” I have come to this conclusion.  Home is what we carry in our hearts.  When my husband and I were first married we lived in a tiny, dark apartment that had metallic wallpaper in the dining area, and wildly patterned carpet in the kitchen.  Yes, the kitchen.  The look was completed by a disfigured blotch that sat directly in front of the oven where someone had dropped a hot pan and melted the nylon floor covering.  I bragged about the fact that I could plug the vacuum cleaner into the living room outlet and clean the entire apartment without ever moving the plug.  The mirror in the bathroom was big enough for just one face, but thankfully Kevin is taller than I am so he was able to shave by looking over the top of my head.  Our television was all of thirteen inches with a manual dial that had broken, requiring us to use a pair of pliers to change channels.

We were unbelievably young, but not naïve enough to think that we were living in luxury.  We knew we were existing at a level just barely above college dorm life, but for one year that tiny, dark apartment was home, and for only one reason. It was home because we were there.  We brought home with us when we moved in.  I have often heard people say that those simple days of hauling groceries up a steep flight of outdoor stairs, and killing house plants on a weekly basis due to lack of natural light, were the good old days.  In honesty I would never go back to them, but I also have to admit that I have brought those days with me.

Wherever we have lived, regardless of location and in spite of the flaws, it has been home, because truth be told, home is the place you are enveloped in safety, where you are consistently given the assurance that you belong.  My house doesn’t have to be the one where people slow down as they pass to take pictures; it just has to be the one where I slow down, not for pictures but for a long, refreshing breath of air.

Grandpa, though only a teenager, had it right all those years ago. He saw the only place he had ever called home crumbling around him so he grabbed the only thing that mattered and ran for safety.  In the end he didn’t lose his home, he lost his shelter, and a shelter is something that can be rebuilt, which is exactly what they did.  Grandpa understood something that I remind myself of every day.  If there is a hand to hold, laughter to share, and a quiet place to rest my head – I am home.

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