In American culture, we go home this time of year. Even if we have shed affiliations with religious dogma (whatever branch you were born into or adopted) and perhaps even if your family has no such attachments to the divine, I would bet that you still gravitate toward the places and/or people you come from when autumn wanes and winter begins. It is feast and festival season –a time when people have been reflective for eons.
All religion aside, what is it that makes us long for the past this time of year: to long for home, to eat the same awful casserole Aunt Willyene has made since 1947, to sleep in our childhood beds, to be comforted by the 86 degree perpetual set of grandma’s thermostat, to ponder over the girl in 1995 who seems so different than the woman you are today, to take this moment to introduce new loves to old loves, to blend, to meld, to reminisce, to realize your once strong connection to a place or a person has waned, to take stock and hold fast to what is all too soon lost? There’s this scene in the season one finale of Mad Men in which Don Draper pitches a campaign for Kodak’s new slide reel –Draper speaks of nostalgia as a potent drug, saying that in Greek it translates as “the pain from an old wound.” As he shows family photos from his wedding, of his children when they were younger, and of his pregnant wife all within the context of what the audience knows is a troubled marriage and man, the folks from Kodak are visibly moved as are the others from Draper’s firm. It is one of the most powerful scenes from the entire series. Nostalgia is an ache indeed. (Here’s a link if you haven’t seen it or if like me you just feel like a good cry: The Carousel, Season One, Episode 13)
I envy people who can still visit homes and people from their early life. The older you get, the more these places only exist in your memory and in your own performance of traditions. Some say it’s best to form new traditions rather than to long so desperately for things that can never be recovered. I hope to make The Home Issue a new tradition for Atticus. Cheers and joy to you all at the close of one year and the dawn of another. Cheers to you as you draw people into your homes or as you travel to the places where you were forged. Cheers to those who needed to leave their first homes behind and have made new homes for themselves. Cheers to those who comfort and those who need comforting. My heart is with you all.
“Of Arms and Men” by Doug McGlothlin contrasts two men out at their local pancake house and leaves us wondering how much of our idea of home is tied to our own physicality and how we move about this world with ghosts of ourselves and the places we’ve been.
In “My Father’s Blackjack,” Steven Sher takes a look at what we choose to inherit and pass on to younger generations.
“Postcard: Altoona/When My Father Lost His Job” by Cindy Veach shows an adult child who has moved away but returned home for a visit who is both embarrassed and sad for her father in the troubled economy of rural Pennsylvania. How much of our identity is bound up with home for both parent and child? What happens to our vision of home when significant losses occur?
In his poem “Filibuster to Delay the Death of My Father,” Dante Di Stefano captures how we are left to redefine and renegotiate the meaning of our lives when we suffer great loss. As humans, we want so much to be in control: “No longer can we depend on autumn/ to drift in through the window as cinder/ and what we need now is to rip parting/ from the lexicon, to borrow against/ the falsetto hymns the seraphim sing.”
In Rob Carney’s flash story “Itineraries,” he shows a man “backed against” the corner of his domestic, suburban existence.
Jessica Hendry Nelson gives us a glimpse into a woman who is hell-bent on defending her territory in “A Recent Transplant Makes Peace with the Natives.” Oh yes, we will stake our claim against invaders even if it means all-out blitzkrieg on household pests. Her story is a testament to the joy and hilarity of the unexpected pleasures of making a new home your own.
In “Montana,” Francis Davis paints such an aching portrait of one couple’s adventure into the unknown that if you don’t want to cut and run to Montana after this, I question the depth of your heart. I’ve read this story many times now and each time I reread the first line, I nod Amen.
Photo By: lauren rushing