Looking for “Home” (Part 2)

In my quest to find the meaning of the word “home,” I’ve been thinking about the home in which I spent my teen years. There were many good times spent in that house, and yet every time I see it, I find myself thinking “What if . . .” This house—with it’s big backyard, it’s bedrooms for each of us, it’s kitchen large enough for a family of six—still holds the pain of the dissolution of our family.

We moved to this house when I was eleven—I was so excited for the new adventure that awaited us there. I was no longer going to have to share a room with my brother—or with anyone for that matter. Both the walls and the carpet were a beautiful light blue, and my parents even let me pick out my own light fixture. For the next 10 years this would be my room—a place to be by myself, to talk on the phone, to listen to music, to do homework, to get ready for dances, to hang out with friends—it was mine, and the thought that some day it would no longer be, never entered my mind.

I live just a few miles away from the town I grew up in, and as much as I love to drive past my first childhood home, I don’t often go out of my way to see this one. There are moments, however, when I find myself getting nearer, and I feel an overwhelming urge to just look at the house once more. I never stop the car, I just slow down long enough to really look at it, at the windows of the rooms that still hold the memories of my family. The number of good memories far outweigh the bad, and yet all I can think of when I see this house are the painful ones—the ones that came at the end.

The “What ifs” that flood my mind are not “What if my parents hadn’t gotten divorced?” because that would be like wondering “What if a different man were my father?” These are two impossible questions that are futile in their nature and not worth pondering. Instead, the “What ifs” are more for my mother. I think of all the questions she must ask herself about the life she lived for more than twenty-five years, a life that ended when her husband walked out one fall day. This home is the one she had to give up, the one she had to leave behind.

There was a moment during the divorce that my mother could have decided to stay in this house—she was given a choice: to stay in the home of our childhood or to move to one a few hours away, free from the reminders of her former life. In the end, it wasn’t really a choice at all. My mother recently reminded me of a conversation we had prior to deciding where to live. She had asked me my opinion on what she should do, and my words to her were  “Home is wherever you are.”

When I ask myself the meaning of “home,” I realize now that it has a meaning that hadn’t occurred to me before. I knew that seeing a former home could bring you back to a time in your life that you otherwise wouldn’t think of—and with that can come the happiness or nostalgia for your former self. However, I now know that a house can also hold the ghosts of your past—ghosts that are sometimes better left forgotten—and by leaving these memories where you found them, you are able to move on with your life.

Sixteen years after packing up each of these rooms for the last time, our lives are settled and going well. We—my mother, siblings, and I—no longer feel the pain we did during that time. In fact, in many ways, that part of our lives has been forgotten, or at least replaced by the new memories that can be found in the homes we have since created. My advice for my daughter, as she continues to wonder what it would be like to move to a new home, is to know that life is filled with both painful and wonderful experiences—and sometimes it is possible—and necessary—to move to a new place in order to leave the painful ones behind.

Published by Erin Rehill

A few years ago, my then eight-year-old daughter told me that she wished I could write down all the things I told her so that she wouldn’t forget them when she got older. In that moment, my daughter gave me such a sense of validation, something I hadn’t really experienced in that way. As parents, we don’t often receive confirmation from our children that we are doing a good job, or that we even know what we are talking about. Since that time, I’ve started to pay more attention to the things I tell her, often thinking to myself “Will she remember this when she is older?” So, this is for her, my words of advice to be read, thought about, laughed at, and maybe even used, when she is older.

Join the Conversation


  1. During my divorce my kids and I moved back into my childhood room. I wish I could say it felt like home, but it didn’t. I think home is where you make it. Then again, I can’t remember the last time I felt at home.

  2. Beautiful post, and I can completely understand your feelings and nostalgia about a former home. I have felt that way about my childhood home – 18 years I lived in that home – I am positive it holds a few ghosts as well, and as much as I adore the home, and what I think is everything about it, I’m 100% sure it would host plenty of ghosts as well.

  3. Your last sentence says it all! You have to let go of your pain in order to see a better future. SOmetimes, that pain is masked in an object, like a house. Your daughter is going to thank you for this wisdom!

  4. We haven’t had to move as a result of my husband’s work yet, but it’s coming soon. I’m not looking forward to leaving the place where we’ve been our whole marriage and where our babies were all born. I hear a lot of “bloom where you’re planted” but I think everyone misses where they’re from.
    I don’t believe that home is where you are – I believe it’s where your heart is.
    Another thoughtful post from you!!

  5. I have lived in 5 states and it is tough moving away. All of my moves started when I became an adult, I can’t imagine moving as a child. However, my son will experience moves due to career opportunities. It is tough and I can only hope that my son will know that home is wherever we are.
    Great post!

  6. My parents still live in my childhood home. I worry that my kids won’t have that sense of home and permanence because they haven’t grown up in the same rooms. But you’re right. Home IS where you are.

  7. Oh Erin what a touching post. Wise words to your mom and daughter. My hubby’s parents separated after about 26 yrs of marriage. They never divorced she got cancer he took care of her till she passed. Sad story.I love following your post. Well done, #commenthour love

  8. Another beautiful and poignant post for your daughter. I love your advice, “home is where you make it”. After I had my son I just didn’t feel right about where I was living, and after a series of events I moved back to my hometown, and life feels so much more complete. For me, I needed the village!
    Congrats on being featured!

  9. I live only a few miles from my childhood home (my parents no longer live there and I came to my current house through a circuitous path…). I have to say I absolutely never make an effort to drive by it because there was a lot of pain there as well. Kudos on the post.

  10. Hi, this post is a reminder that life is a journey. We move on and look back. We remember, but don’t get stuck, hopefully. My parents still live in the house where I grew up, but I fell like I have moved onfrom there. I visit often, but don’t feel tied to it.

  11. Home is where your heart is. That’s hard when your heart is in one place but you live somewhere else. I struggle with this a lot I am getting better but it’s still hard. Love the post very thought provoking.

  12. What a beautiful post!! I loved the photos as well. I go back to Philadelphia, where I was born and raised, and I always make it a point to drive by my old homes on Woodstock and Baynton Sts to help remind myself of the little girl and the young woman I’d been when I lived there. See, I tend to live my life moving forward and with little thought to the past (I think its because I have such a bad memory) and I need reminding of who I was so that I can appreciate who I’ve become and am still becoming. I quote The Lion King (don’t judge me LoL) when I say “Home is where my rump rests”. Of course, you put it much finer but I love this piece of advice you’re leaving your daughter! #commenthour

  13. This is a beautiful post- a little sad and heartwarming at the same time. I’m here at your blog months after this post because I realized tonight that I never responded to the commenters who commented on my guest post at Scary Mommy on the Myth of the Super Mom. At the time, I was quite new to blogging and I was nervous about commenting on every single comment- thinking it was some guest blogger faux pas to do so- So, belated thank you for your comment and honesty about your trials at making nutritious dinners. I wish I didn’t suck at laundry. We could swap. 🙂

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