The Cavalier Daily
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The places we call home

ACROSS these mountains, across several rivers, over used battlefields and county lines and every sort of geography but deserts, there is a place that I called home for as long as I was there.

It seems worth mention, as this is Parents' Weekend, and we are welcoming the visitors from the many places we call home. A little reflection seems warranted on what we mean when we talk about home. Our parents visit from these places, some nearby and some far away. They bring with them reminders of what we once were and what we now are becoming.

Home isn't just a physical place. It's the sights, sounds and smells of childhood -- gone forever -- that linger on in our memories. Home is where we found the driving ambition that brought us here. Home is where our fears come from. It's the things we left behind us, that we walked away from.

Home also is what we bring with us, the values and principles that we carry with us each day. Those things aren't tied to a place. They are tied to us. That sense of home is what we retain when we leave the places we have called home. It isn't just one place. It's a sense of place.

It's a sense of having belonged somewhere, of having known a place that felt comfortable, safe and certain. It's the feeling that comes from being shaped by your surroundings.

Home is now, for all of us, Charlottesville. This weekend, many students have the golden opportunity to show their new home to their parents. It's a wonderful opportunity, and a great pleasure to watch. There is so much about this place that makes it a good home.

A good home is a place where you find the beauty peculiar to an area, where you find the people and build the memories that make a place distinctly yours. A good home is a place where you can weather the many challenges life hurls out in good stead, where you can take the good with the bad and know that it eventually will work out.

Home is where you are and where you've been. It's all the places, people and memories that you collect. It's the strength and desire that make it possible to move on. Home is where you're going.

Home for me is a thousand miles away, in an empty house in the very middle of America. Across those thousand miles, the land grows flat and the dirt turns black, and they grow corn and high school wrestlers and they don't tell too many lies, and they agree to call it Iowa. It is tempting to idealize, but it's boring, it lacks culture in the same way that it lacks pretense, and it consists only of small towns and cities that seem wonderful in hindsight, but stifling when you're growing up in them.

It's also where my whole family grew up. It's where everyone I ever knew who died got put into the ground. It's where every girl I ever fell in love with lived, and it's where my hardest lessons were learned. It's what made me who I am, with passions, fears, hopes and failures all tacked on. It's where I came out of, where I worked very hard to leave. It's with me every day, as the places that we come from cannot be washed off.

Right now, my parents call as their home a very small village in England. For close to 50 years they knew only one home, that very flat part of America where they raised my sister and me. They're an ocean away now, but I think they're still very much at home. Everything they need to feel at home, they carry with them. They've lived a lot of life, and have picked up the necessary things and tucked them into their hearts. They've learned much; they know a few things about the world and about themselves. These things they know as facts, and these facts are few and simple. I'll hazard a guess at what a few of them might be.

Love doesn't stay in one place. It travels to those it's intended for, and it's not deterred by mountains or oceans. If you've raised two children and made clear to them the depth of your love, you don't need to be in the same place as they are. You can be many thousands of miles away and things still will turn out fine.

The experiences we amass in the places we've lived stay with us, regardless of where we are. The honesty, faith and character bred by a hometown don't vanish if you leave. The travel and the wear only strengthen them.

We don't have to be together to share the things that remind us of home, that make us feel togetherness. Yankees games and Iowa football can be shared from miles away, and that shared experience will ensure that the continuity of family isn't lost. A well-timed letter of encouragement, received from across the water, can make up for any number of missed Parents' Weekends. Strong memories and earnest compassion will conquer distance any time.

This weekend is a wonderful chance to bring our old homes together with our new ones. For those of us who won't be welcoming visitors, it's the same story. Home is with us wherever we go, in whatever places we call home. (Tom Bednar is an Opinion editor for The Cavalier Daily.)


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