What does “Home” mean to you?

Yesterday morning two fellow bloggers I read regularly posted quotes about “home” within 30 minutes of each other. They live in very different parts of the U.S., write blog posts on very different topics, and have very different life stories, so it was an intriguing coincidence. I had my first “sit up and take notice” moment when I saw these two quotes and the very different messages being conveyed about the same topic. I had my second “sit up and take notice” moment when I read the comments other readers had contributed about these two very different quotes. In each case, the readers had very different interpretations of the quotes from each other and from how I interpreted them. Of course, that’s part of the fun of blogging and commenting, to learn from each other and share thoughts. But I was still surprised. And I’m still mulling over both quotes. Take a look.

The first quote, from Samuel Johnson, is actually part of a longer quote, and his use of language was more common in 1750 than now, so his meaning may not come across to a 2020 audience exactly as he had intended. A similar quote by Johnson is “The end of all endeavour is to be happy at home,” which may more clearly convey what he had in mind: our happiness in our home lives, or private lives, is what really matters.

When we use the word “home”, most of us think first about the place, people and things we return to at the end of a day, or trip, or whatever. For some people that thought is a reassuring one, one of welcome … our sanctuary. The place where we are affirmed and nurtured. Hopefully a place where we feel loved. Sadly, for others, the word “home” may mean loneliness, a reminder of hunger, or even abuse. There’s the ideal and then the reality.

The quote from Kathy Garland can be interpreted in different ways, and her readers came up with several I wouldn’t have thought of. For me it conveyed a dark message, one that said that we should be careful not to accept things in our home that diminish us, restrict us from being all that we can be, or worse, put up with abuse of any kind. That would be my idea of prison. And her quote was putting responsibility on the reader to take ownership of their lives and not let that happen. But some readers immediately saw the “home as prison” analogy as relating to COVID “Stay Home” restrictions, turning their homes into prisons. That thought hadn’t even crossed my mind!

These quotes and the comments that ensued got me to thinking about what the word “home” means to us. I was thinking about this as I was watching the horrors unfolding in the U.S. yesterday. Some legislators, in their remarks once the Capitol building was secured again (I can’t believe I’m saying that), spoke of the Capitol building as the Home of Democracy. Hmm. OK, well, I won’t get into that debate, but it is a commonly used expression, “the Home of __________”, meaning the place of first occurrence.

What about the expression “your home country” or “homeland”? Does that mean the country of your birth, the country where you live, or the country where your heart is? I think it means different things to different people. For me, my home country is where my heart is and where my life is, Canada; it’s definitely not the country of my birth. Sorry, folks.

Some say that home is where your story begins.

Some say that home is a metaphor for your life.

Some say that home is a metaphor for living because we structure our homes the way we want to structure our lives.

Some consider that our real home is planet Earth, which is why we should treat it with far more care and respect than we do.

Some talk about their spiritual home; the place or places in which they feel most “at home” spiritually.

This may get to the root of what “home” really means to most of us if we stop and think about it, the place where we feel most “at home”. It can mean different things to different people, and it can be more than one place for many people. What do you think? What does it mean for you?

Whatever and wherever home is for you, let’s hope you don’t create a prison out of it! Seriously. Find a way to feel at home with yourself wherever you are, especially during these isolating times of COVID restrictions.

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38 Responses to What does “Home” mean to you?

  1. Jean says:

    If there is domestic abuse at home, then home is a prison. Or home is building hazard, that too is a prison.

    Otherwise, I hope that some people would rethink their home feeling during covid…if they live in a country at peace and have decent/ societal standard of living, then prison must related to their mental health — ie. something bothering them long before covid which has nothing to do with home.

  2. Jean says:

    Home to me, means a comforting, cultural touchstone…and that cultural home for me, is Canada. It sounds nationalistic…but I was raised in CAnada and live here all my life. That’s why distinguishes me from others living elsewhere in the world. We need to be comfortable in our home in our head and physically safe. So if one is not comfortable in a culture, then it’s not quite “home”, not even spiritually.

    Home means also being at peace with yourself and all the things…good and bad one has experienced.

  3. Roy McCarthy says:

    Intriguing post, I hadn’t considered the various senses that the word ‘home’ can have to different people. Me, I suppose Jersey, my place of residence for 43 years, is where my present ‘home’ is, my lovely studio apartment overlooking the sea. Birmingham, where my parents rocked up in the early 1950s and where my mother still lives, is where the family homestead is, certainly for her lifetime. But you also touch on spiritual home and – as I’ve no doubt said before – when I approach Cork, Ireland by whatever means of transport, is when I really feel as if I’m coming home.

  4. I wrote 2 whole books about home in its various manifestations and meanings and am glad to see that you have cited several different ways in which home may be defined. A very interesting post! Happy new year to you.

  5. Linda Sprague says:

    Such an interesting post Jane. The first thought of home, is usually my little house with its warm fireplace. I aspire to not think like a nationalist. In fact, I wish people would think of the entire world as home. Here’s a part of a hymn I love: “My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine. But other lands have sunlight too and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.”

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Linda. You have given me some significant food for thought. I never thought about not being a “nationalist” until now. I fervently wish we could all think of each other as fellow citizens of the world, and be kind, welcoming and supportive of each other, regardless of language, skin colour, religion, or any other differentiation. But I’m very proud to be Canadian, and of being a New Brunswicker as well. However, you have presented me with an intriguing concept!

  6. bernieLynne says:

    I’m doing a short story fictional piece about coming “home” during the pandemic and having no fixed address.
    I’ve been lucky that home as never been a prison; growing up or as an adult. It’s a scary thought and somewhere I don’t even truly comprehend. Home for me is definitely where my heart is. Which is why I had an address in Vancouver but it never felt like home even after 1 1)2.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      That’s a sobering topic you’ve chosen for your short story, Bernie! Just thinking about it reminds us of the fundamental meaning of home as a place of shelter and security. I guess it’s those of us who can take that for granted who can then move on to think of home as where the heart is. Thanks for reminding me of how lucky I am.

  7. For me, a dedicated homebody, home is best. It is where I can dream and be myself. It is the place that I open to family and friends, outside now, during this time of Covid-19, in lawn chairs in the snow.

  8. Home has come up for me recently in the word “Hiraeth” it is a welsh word (celtic) that really has no good English translation. It is about longing……. “for a home that no longer exists or maybe never was” there is a longer definition trying to define the indefinable but I loved the thought of longing for just the thought of home, especially one that “maybe never was” not a house or a return address but something ephemeral and that cannot really be captured in words.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks so much for bringing up the word “Hiraeth”, West Coast Woman. I was introduced to that term when I started googling about “home”, but couldn’t quite figure out what it really meant. Your explanation is very helpful. It also shows the depth of the emotion associated with the word “home”.

  9. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    Home– such a double edged sword to a lot of people. As Jane so wisely asks here– where and what is it? I have had many homes in my lifetime and usually never think about it too much other than it is the place where I am loved and accepted and feel “at home”. Normally that is my physical house but it can also be the province of my birth and upbringing when I return and visit family. But for me home is always a welcome space.

  10. K E Garland says:

    So, first of all, I have to pay homage to LA because I love her blog and it was quite odd that we both blogged about a similar topic.

    As far as my kwote goes, I just told my husband that I wrote it like this intentionally. I wanted it to be interpreted in whatever way suited people, and because meaning is always in the maker (a Rosenblatt quote), it seemed to have worked.

    I also don’t mind sharing what I was thinking when this came to me, but I don’t want to ruin the mystique of it all by explaining it. It’s been fun reading all of the interpretations, like that COVID one. I hadn’t even though of that.

    Anywho, thanks Jane! For me, art is all about inspiring and influencing more art, so I’m pleased to have read your blog today ❤

  11. Inkplume says:

    This quote best describes my thoughts and feelings: Home is where the heart is!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Linda, I’ve been thinking about this question for a day and a half (well, mostly I’ve been watching history unfolding in terrible ways on CNN), and that’s precisely the conclusion I’ve come to: home is where the heart is. 😊❤️

  12. Interesting post, Jane, and I can see how people will interpret these differently. There’s another quote “home is where the heart is”, which has always intrigued me. Personally, when I travel overseas the word ‘home’ means Canada. When I’m on a Canadian vacation out of town, home is BC’s lower mainland. When I’m in the lower mainland, home is my house, which for me means peaceful sanctuary.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      You and I think alike, Debra. Big time. Not only do I agree with the saying “home is where the heart is” – and so where I’m happy – but I also think of Canada and New Brunswick as home. Happily so. But maybe we’re lucky that way.

  13. Interesting that the word “homely” should have negative connotations.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      That use of the word is a strange outlier once one stops to think about it, and it seems to me that “homely” does not have the same negative meaning in Britain, the “home” of the language! Gosh, Tim, even more food for thought.

  14. This a great post! Thank you!

  15. All good thoughts, Jane. I think you’re right about how the word can also take up spiritual meanings too. So meaning during the pandemic did look for something heartfelt to help keep them at bay. All joking aside, there was a reason for that toilet paper to disappear so quickly last March. – Marty

  16. AMWatson207 says:

    You’ve set rich table of food for thought.

  17. LA says:

    I read KE not long after I’d posted and I thought it was odd we both talked about this topic, loosely as it was. And I thought the different ways people had interpreted these was quite interesting. I’m still struggling with the meaning, but I’m glad that KE and I both blogged about this.

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