“Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he hand plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.”
Thus begins Robert Fagles‘ brilliant translation of the ultimate journey home. Timeless, in reference to The Odyssey, is perhaps the greatest literary understatement imaginable, and as I reread this story for what feels like the hundredth time, I reflect on the concept of home.
As a “Navy-brat,” my understanding of “home” was unique. The expression I grew up hearing is: “Home is where the Navy sends you.” Regardless of where my dad was stationed, we knew that, at the end of the day, we were a family. For us, home was our safe haven, made for gatherings of friends and family and the sharing of love and laugher, regardless of where we were.
As for a “hometown”? To this day, I still stumble when people ask me where I’m from. I was born in Hawaii, but spent time on both coasts of the United States, and my family has lived in Wisconsin for many generations. In all honesty, my answer varies depending on the day, my mood, and with whom I’m speaking. Recently, I prefer to respond with “Wisconsin,” because that’s where I feel the strongest connection.
Now I think that home is the interaction of certain locations with those I love. Home is with my Grandpa on his land in Rhinelander (pictured above and below). Home is where I had to crawl under a deck to rescue a dropped action figure accessory for my brother. Home is where my adorable younger cousins, who won’t stop growing, jump on my back at the same time. Home is where people at Wal-Mart stop my mom and say, “Holy smokes! Michelle, is that you? And is this Mikala? Where has the time gone!” Home is Wisconsin, with deep family roots, a unique appreciation of “Midwest Food” (especially squeaky cheese curds!), and an accent that makes my heart smile.
My journey “home” is much shorter, cheaper, and safer than Odysseus’, but recent losses in the family make return a challenge emotionally. My grandma, pictured right, was the strongest woman I have ever met, and though I hope I can reflect the lessons she has taught me, Rhinelander is missing one stubborn, beautiful, and loving angel.
At the end of the day, it gets easier when I remember that home will always be with my family, living with cherished memories of those who have now left us; but, I hope I never forget the unconditional love I have felt in Wisconsin, at home, and I remember to share that with the world.