The breakfast hour at the Manor is almost over. Our usual latecomer crowd lingers over coffee, laughing and visiting. The conversation covers everything from the antics in the Senate – in the very “Chamber of Sober Second Thought” – to an email picture of a new great-grandchild.
Tentatively, a woman approaches our table. “May I join you?”
“Of course,” comes a chorus of voices. “Are you new here?”
“Yes, my name is Marie. I moved in last night, or at least my kids moved me in! They worked so hard. This is all so . . . different. Tell me, do you like it here?”
She sits down, and our long-suffering, sympathetic servers bring her breakfast and coffee, and the talk goes on. Marie is swamped with answers. Everyone talks at once, laughing, giving opinions, tips, and encouragement to the newcomer. One voice carries over the rest, “Of course you will like it, it’s home. Home is where the heart is, you know.” With this tattered cliché thrown in, the getting-to-know-you session is over. Although we laugh at the old saying, it does seem to cover the general feeling. With a “See you later,” the group breaks up.
As I walk back to my suite, I muse over the encounter. What was it we were trying to tell Marie? Home—was it a feeling we were trying to convey? Why does the old cliché ring so true? I turn to my computer and contact everyone’s friend – Google! What is the meaning of the old saying? The results are spectacular to say the least. In 0.28 seconds Google has 38 million “hits” with different interpretations. Obviously serious culling is called for. I make my best effort.
The origin of this saying is unknown, with guesses ranging from the days of the American Pilgrims, back to Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – 79). There are basic needs which create a universal need to feel safe, comfortable, loved, and happy. If these conditions exist, you have reached home. This home is where you long to be. Vague as this is, it helps to explain the wide pull of that saying. It also throws light on why some people, who have had unfortunate conditions in their birth families, never think of longing to be there. Their hearts are certainly not where their familial homes are located. It also explains why our definition of home changes as we age. Home is not necessarily a place: It can be a feeling of reaching something essential, what we long for and know is necessary.
I never know where the next breakfast debate will take me, but this one has been helpful.
A few days later, I see Marie again. She seems . . . at home.