Home is where the heart is. Those few simple words in that old proverb whisper a message that rings true for most of us. For me, it reminds that where my family is, there too is my heart.

I grew up in a small ranch house at the edge of Canton, crowded with my brother, sister and me and our parents. But those days filled to the brim with the chaos of day-to-day living were some of the happiest of my life.

Mornings that were a blur of getting ready for school, sometimes arguing, always searching for lost papers and book satchels. Afternoons spent doing our homework and playing outside. Dinners each evening when all of us gathered around the kitchen table and shared our day.

It really didn’t matter that our den was so small we could barely all fit around the television, or that I shared a bedroom with my sister, or that we only had one bathroom. We were together.

As we got older my parents added on to our house, expanding it and giving us all some breathing room, but something was lost in the process. Love really does grow best in small houses.

My favorite house, though, was my grandmother’s little cottage on Main Street in Canton. She loved her home so much, and each room gleamed with furniture polish and sparkled with white linens she crocheted.

As a child I loved to spend time there. In the winter we sat in the front bedroom in her big rocking chairs where we could watch the world go by her windows. In the summer we moved to the front porch and pulled out the paper fans as we sat in her swing or on the little wooden settee and rocking chair her husband had crafted when he was alive.

She didn’t have a television, preferring to listen to the local radio for all the happenings of the day. There were only a few toys at her house. Instead of the usual diversions, we would while away the hours playing dominoes or sewing doll clothes on her old Singer sewing machine, or just talking about everything under the sun.

My parents lived in their home for more than 50 years, from the time I was born until they died. My grandmother, who lived until she was 96, called her little house home for more than 60 years. Our lives had good times and bad, but we always had each other.

When my own children came along I tried to recreate those havens of home from my childhood. I am not sure I fully succeeded, but I tried. I worked outside the home, instead of being like my mother, who took on the job of homemaker and parent on as a full-time undertaking.

Many nights I would order pizza instead of making those home-cooked meals of my childhood. And organization was never my strong suit. My mother always asked me what I was cooking for my children, and always had a way of raising an eyebrow or giving emphasis to certain words to point out I wasn’t offering a home-cooked meal.

But still, our home was always where my heart was. When we became empty nesters, I wasn’t sure I would survive, but somehow, I did. Still I often long for those days of childhood and parenthood when coming home meant finding a bustling family.

Maya Angelou said “The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

Maybe that is what home is for each of us – our safe place where we can be ourselves.

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