I was in either fifth or sixth grade when the teacher gave each of us a topic, a word that could have more than one meaning or interpretation. We were to look up the dictionary definition, and then we were to ask at least three people what the word meant to them. I was given the word HOME.
We were supposed to get a variety of answers. I remember asking a younger kid what HOME was to him, and he gave this very basic answer: It’s where they let you have a puppy even when your sister has a cat. I remember wondering how I could make that work at our house. I really wanted a kitten, but my brother David was allergic to cats, so I couldn’t have one…Hmm. How did that fit with a definition of HOME?
Dad had a definite philosophy about the importance of homes and hometowns: No matter where people live or how rich or poor they are, there’s something about their home or their town that they’re proud of. The secret to connecting with people is to find out what that something is, encourage them to talk about it…and really listen to what they say.
I remember trying to write that as one of my answers for the assignment, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I understood how important and on-target it really was.
I don’t remember what other answers I got for my assignment, Mom. I do remember, though, one of the children’s poems you wrote. Of all your poetry, “HOMES” was—and still is—one of my favorites.
“HOMES” ~ by Mary Elizabeth Shepherd
The milk cow sleeps in the barn;
A house is a home for folks.
The little birds sleep in a nest in a tree,
In the pond the bull-frog croaks.
The milk cow wouldn’t like my bed;
And I couldn’t sleep in a nest.
The bull-frog doesn’t like the barn.
Each one thinks his home is the best.
You and Dad were actually giving me very similar answers about the importance of HOME. I thank you both for the answers you provided in my life, and for the home you made for our family.
(P.S. Mom, you were right about the cat thing. You said that when I grew up and had my own home, I could have as many cats as I wanted. Our daughter Molly’s first cat was Abbra. And after Abbra it was Solomon and Calla Lilly. Now, in her own home, Molly’s children have Munchkin. No cat allergies for us!)