A week ago we returned from two weeks on Cape Cod. As much as I enjoy travel, returning home is always a good feeling. My granddaughter, Viv, said as much, she didn’t want to leave the Cape but would be glad to be home. Her brother, Eli, who came to the Cape after a month at Camp Pinemere in the Poconos said, “I’ll be glad to sleep in my oun bed.”
For many, home provides warmth, comfort, reassurance, security. Home-made is good, tasty. Home cooked is comfort food. Home sweet home. There’s no place like home. Home is where the heart is. OK, maybe smaltzy; straight out of Hallmark. But I decided to look up some additional “home” quotes. A few I liked: “A house is made of bricks and beams. A home is made of hopes and dreams.” “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.” “Home is where one starts from.” –T.S. Eliot.
Coming home. I rembered the summer of 1975 we spent it in Bethel, ME with Garret and Melody Bonnema who had moved from Bristol and opened a pottery studio. The area was beautiful. Several times a week we hiked in the White Mountains. I spent a week doing photography on a Maine island. We had a fantastic time. But when we returned to Bucks County we commented on how good it felt being home. For me we were actually living in my first home — the apartment in Bristol where I grew up.
Bristol made me a small town person. Main Street, although in Bristol it was Mill Street. Four blocks of a classic commercial district; we lived in a large apartment over stores owned and rented by my grandfather. My father worked in a family business, Profy’s GE appliances, across the street. We shopped in town, on the street. Walked to school, library and church. Total small town. Bristol recently has been enjoying a type of Renaissance, renewed interest in the waterfront, local businesses, festivals, and the relationships that make it a “hometown.”
Diane and I have had several homes. If I grew up grew up in Bristol, Diane was from Brewster later Carmel, her Dad’s business was in Croton Falls. All small towns in NY. Our first home together was a third story apartment, Commonwealth Avenue, Cleveland Circle, about two miles from Boston College in Newton, MA. The Peace Corps was an interlude. We returned to Bristol, rented a house on Cedar Street. I thought Tom Wolfe was right, “you can’t go home again.” And here we were in Bristol. We soon moved to a Yardley canal side house that belonged to Sid Cadwallader who we met at Yardley Friends Meeting. This was more us. But not for long. After a year we moved to Old York Road outside of downtown New Hope. We rented again, but this time sharing the house with John and Barbara Paglione. Back to the earth, communes, well, an intentional two couple community. We had a huge garden, John and I worked on farms in the summer. We spent some time looking to buy a home together.
John decided to go to graduate school (Ann Arbor). Our New Hope home broke up. Diane and I began looking for a house; in the interim we returned to my parents. In the summer of 1976 we went to England telling my father to bid/ buy a house coming up for sale. On our return, we discovered he had secured the house but, Mom was acting strange. She wanted out of the apartment; she wanted a real home. I told my father, you buy it. His condition was that we would live in the family apartment. We did. For about a year. A strange year. Jenny was born. Her first home was my childhood home. But the local movie theatre had become an adult gay movie house. Fights erupted between gays and straights every weekend. “Diane it wasn’t like this when I was growing up.” But the good news: the Grundy Foundation bought the theatre and created a legitimate local theatre. My hometown had a renaissance Going home again, Tom Wolfe. But we moved. We purchased this time.
Our new home was 121 N. Delaware Avenue in Yardley Borough, River Road in front, the canal behind us, across a small back street and empty lot. “Location, location, location,” they say. We’re small town people; we’ve been here 40 years. The house was a vacation cottage. Quite small, the interior walls and ceiling were covered in tongue in groove boards, stained. In the early 80s we decided 121 was too small. But mortgage interest rates were 18%. We decided on an addition. Construction proceeded for several years, my father and I doing the finishing after the shell was built. We brought Cordiscos from Bristol for the construction.
We knew our home was in the flood plain (we paid insurance). Our renovations revealed mud and wracked windows. But we never thought a lot about flooding. Ocassionally the river rose, even flooded sections of river road, came up a bit in our backyard. Until 2004, 2005,and 2006. Although we never took first floor water, the basement flooded, we evacuated, and lost things, electric, heating system damage. A mess. In 2007 we decided to elevate rather than trying to sell at a loss. Cost was $40,000, about the same as the original cost.
Now retired in our 70s, we are in our home. But the steps seem endless, especially when we have a car filled with grocery bags. Maybe we’ll move, it’s on the “to do” retirement list but 121 has and still is home.
Since returning from Cape Cod, I’ve been thinking about what makes a house, an apartment, condo, cottage, or shack a “home.” Somehow it’s become part of us or we’ve become part of it. I’m, we’re intertwined, connected to 121. Better or worse.
There are memories: Jenny playing, growing up with a neighborhood friend Katie. Jen was a redhead; Katie was blonde. Such fun strolling them into Yardley along the canal. Jenny’s high school graduation picnic with our friends and relatives. Dinners, and parties, in the unfinished addition. Pickled river herring; Canal walks. Cold days in front of our Vermont casting woodstove. Involvement in hometown events, organizations and politics. Even the floods hold many memories. Neighborhood spirit.
Homes are filled with objects that reflect and recall the past. From the family room chair where I sit, I see the balsa wood boat, a gift from my parents on trip visiting Marylee in WA state. There are Mercer tiles, a David Sears “Shad” painting,, a reading stand crafted by Rodney Hamilton, a wooden chest with the date of Lincoln’s assassination painted on the under side of the top, an old school desk (filled with daily journals) purchased at a Brown Brothers auction, pottery, glass, tiles, prints and paintings from many craft shows. A small ceramic donkey and cart planter that sat in my grandfather’s kitchen. A wall clock my father constructed; a Mike Holman painting. And this is only one room.
Since I’ve been home from the Cape I’ve enjoyed garden harvests. So many beautiful tomatoes this year; lots of peppers. Fall seedlings are coming up. Despite the high 90 temperatures, I’ve walked on the canal towpath. I’ve enjoyed cooking in my kitchen; sitting, reading in my recliner; sleeping in my bed. I’m home. I have objects and memories that sustain. Travel is great, interesting, exciting, eye opening, but yes, you can go home, there is no place like it.