In July, we passed the sixth month mark of 2020 - what has become an unprecedented year of change. Today it’s mind-boggling to realize we are approaching a half year of sheltering in place. I wonder how each of us might be feeling about the place we call home, which many of us have been inhabiting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What does home mean to us now? Has it become more important to our sense of safety and security? Does it feel like a well-worn, comfortable shoe that we would be loath to part with? Or does it seem like we are artificially tethered to it and can’t wait to leave for some sweet place that beckons on the horizon?My curiosity was ignited when I came across a few descriptive lines from Mark Twain about his beloved family home in Hartford, CT. It was a fairly grand Victorian house with 25 rooms where he lived from 1874 to 1891 with his wife, Livy, and their three daughters (one young son had died earlier). The Billiard Room which included his office and private study served him well. It was here where he gathered his friends every Friday for billiards, and where he also produced his major literary works - Life on the Mississippi, Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, etc. This is how he remembered their Hartford home:
“To us, our house was not unsentient matter - it had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals, and solicitudes, and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and benediction. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out its eloquent welcome - and we could not enter it unmoved.” (1896)
His wistful perception of their family residence allowed him to envision it like a loving person with arms stretched out in welcome and “solicitude.” It personified his deep contentment for the wonderful years he and his family had enjoyed within its walls. Through the eyes of his heart, he transformed a structure of wood and stone into a haven and a refuge for sometimes weary bodies and unsteady spirits.Mark Twain’s nostalgic portrayal of home may seem romantic, even whimsical, for our contemporary sensibilities. At the same time I can feel myself easing more gently into the heart of the place I call home.