I called the barracks home when I was in Basic Training. The other women hooted at me for using the word home so. But I figured, bed + warm + my stuff was there + good plumbing = home enough. My standards for the word home were minimal, physical. Taken down to bedrock, my home of the homeless. I had attachments, or told myself I did; I was supposedly happily married. I kept perfunctory contact with parents and brothers. Dimly, I was beginning to see that I had no emotional home.
I grew up in stable poverty. A small, old, house—mortgage paid for before I was born. Food on the table, it was cheap, but it was enough. Mom sewed clothes, ensuring there was always sufficiency, if nothing extra. We were poor, but without the recompense of love, or family feeling. I was the last, the unexpected child, the idea of daughter my mother wanted—but more in the tomboy variety that she did not understand. Certainly, I was not the Daddy’s Girl my father wanted. I was a much played with new toy, an experiment, to my much older brothers. I felt there had been a family, once, but I was not part of it. I was too late. I was not turning out to be the person they hoped for. I did not belong, but I had nowhere else to go. Home was physical, nothing else—a place to go at night to sleep. Roof over my head, clothes on my back, food on the table, this was the motto in this house.
The homes I made for myself for the next decade were much the same, spare, sufficient, lacking a safe for my heart. I had to guess at what home was, just as I had to take a stab in the dark at what love might be. I guessed wrong.
Perversely, I learned about what home could mean in the context of the Army. The foothills appeared in people who often shared emotional backgrounds that resonated with mine. In the military, the ‘Art of Conversation’ lives—if somewhat profanely—and, man, we talked all the time. I found myself never more alone than I wanted to be. At 0200, suppose I was feeling lonely, I could jaw with the CQ sergeant at the desk, at the very least. No taboo subjects, no need to hide my thoughts or ideas, no stringent standards or religious sensibilities to pander to, no word unsayable. For the first time in my life, I could be utterly myself, and be liked, accepted.
In this world not obvious for its warmth, waiting to be sent off to a war, on a high mountain military post, I found a completely genuine human being. Much to my dismay, he loved me. More, I grew to love him. And one cold bright day, with a nasty sinus infection—healing thanks to his intervention (getting some of our docs to write a prescription and getting my sergeant to take him to get it filled)—I laid my head on his knee, warming in the low winter sun on the parade ground bleachers, and fell asleep. I knew, at that moment, what home really was, and it wasn’t a house, or plumbing, or stuff. It was being safe, being treated lovingly, being myself utterly, and, well, yes, having a place to rest my head.
Home is where the heart rests.
Written by Zhoen of One Word