By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Dorothy was so right. Her famous line “There’s no place like home” is not just true in The Wizard of Oz. It’s true everywhere and all the time.
We came home last Sunday, and it felt better than good. A week earlier, we packed up and left – but we didn’t go far. We drove a couple miles down the road to one of those extended stay hotel rooms that have a tiny kitchenette, a bed and a pull-out sofa. Meanwhile, a couple of floor refinishers moved into our place and went to work.
Our house is about 15 years old and, from what we’ve heard from the neighbors, has always been home to families with plenty of kids and dogs and friends and foot traffic. When we moved in four years ago, we knew the hard wood floors would need to be sanded and refinished sometime, and last week that “sometime” finally rolled around. The floor refinishers told us we couldn’t walk on the floors at all during the week-long process. Besides that, the dust from the sanding and the smell from the chemicals would most certainly have sent us running to the closest hotel. So away we went.
The kids were thrilled with the change of scenery because the hotel had a small indoor pool with a heater. If it were up to them, we might move permanently to the extended stay hotel. I, on the other hand, missed home immediately. As rotten luck would have it, I managed to catch a cold the day before we moved into the tiny hotel room. I did my best to tough it out because we had a busy week on tap with school and work and flag football practices. But the coughing and sneezing and sniffling lingered all week, and sleep was hard to come by. I got up during the night to go to the bathroom and close the door before a coughing fit so as not to wake Tom and the kids sleeping so close by. Being sick anywhere isn’t fun, but being sick away from home is a few steps closer to miserable.
By Thursday, I gave up on the “tough it out” strategy and went to see my nurse practitioner to admit defeat. She said my cold had morphed into a sinus infection and sent me away with antibiotics in hand and a cough medication that promised to help me get some sleep. Later that night, after my dose of cough medication, I settled into bed and hoped the night would pass quietly. It did not.
At 2:15 in the morning, we woke up to a loud alarm. In my medicated haze, I thought I’d incorrectly set the bedside alarm clock and began beating the snooze button to make it stop. Then Tom sat up abruptly and said, “It’s not the clock. It’s the hotel’s fire alarm.”
“Let’s get the kids and go,” he said.
We scrambled out of bed, threw on jeans and plucked three sleepy kids out of their beds and quickly stuffed their limp arms into jackets. We carried them through the hallways and down the stairs along with lots of other people wearing odd-looking pajamas and disheveled hair. There was no sign or smell of smoke or fire.
Once we reached the lobby, it was pretty clear there was no real fire but no one could be certain. So we all hovered around the door and watched as three fire trucks rolled up and eight firemen in full gear carrying axes tromped by us to investigate. Seven-year-old Adam and 5-year-old Jack watched silently with wide eyes, very pleased with this middle-of-the-night excitement they never get at home.
After a thorough search, the firemen walked back by us and said we could all go back to bed. Miraculously, all three kids went back to sleep quickly. I, on the other hand, lay there wide awake wishing the medicated fog would settle over me again so I could sleep. It did not.
Thankfully, the antibiotics began to work their magic over the next few days. And by Sunday evening, I clicked my heels and we went back home. Ah, home! I was so happy to be back here, I could have dropped to my knees and kissed the newly refinished floors.
The time away made me realize just how big a deal a home really is. When I see families on the news who have lost a house to fire, tornado or flood, I always think that surely they realize how lucky they are to have escaped with their families intact, having only lost “stuff.” But now I realize that when it’s your home and your “stuff,” it’s different. It’s personal. Because that collective stuff combined with the strong comfort of familiarity and history is what makes it a special place. Losing your place in the world is no small thing, and I sure am glad to have missed mine for only a week.
Certainly it’s true that love and people are what make a house a home. But it’s also natural to love the home that shelters those people and serves as a wellspring to a family’s love. Home… there’s no place like it. Dorothy definitely got it right.