A Meditation on “Home”

We have a new home.  And with it, all the attendant physical and emotional turmoil of moving at my age.

I am surrounded by boxes, and tormented by the seemingly endless decisions to “keep” or “let go.” (Do I really still need the hand written notes from my doctoral dissertation? Apparently, yes, I do).

One of the indelible memories of this move is the 2022 World Series playing in the background as we packed.  A wonderful diversion from the chaos, our community home, Philadelphia, vibrated with excitement and good cheer – suddenly we were all on the same team.  It got me thinking about home, the attachment we form to the familiar, and the longing to feel connected to people and to place.

“Home” is a word that conjures such strong feeling: the privilege of even having a home, the home of our childhood, the partner that feels like home.

So the Philadelphia Phillies and cheering fans were the background music as we prepared for an enormous life transition.  I was reminded of an essay about the concept of “home” that I have loved for years.  Coincidentally, it was written about “home base” by the former MLB commissioner, Bart Giamatti; I was introduced to this beautiful essay decades ago by one of my mentors, Monica McGoldrick, of The Multicultural Family Institute of New Jersey.

Commissioner Giamatti was asked by a fan why “home plate” wasn’t called “4th base.” After all, there was a first,  second and third base, why not 4th?

Here is his response:

“In baseball, even opponents gather at the same curious, unique place called home plate. Catcher and Batter, siblings who may see the world separately but share the same sight lines, are backed up and yet ruled by the parent figure, the umpire, whose place is the only one not completely defined. This tense family clusters at home, facing the world together, each with separate responsibilities and tasks and perspectives, each with different obligations and instruments. Some are intent on flight, some on communication, some simply on the good order of it all — the ‘conduct of the game’ — but they are still a family or family-like group in their proximity, their overall perspective, their chatter and squabbling, their common desire, differently expressed, to master the ferocity and duplicity of that spherical, irrational reality — the major league pitch.”

“Why is home plate not called fourth base? As far as I can tell it has always been thus.”

“And why not?  Meditate upon the name.

‘Home’ is an English word virtually impossible to translate into other tongues. No translation catches the associations, the mixture of memory and longing, the sense of security and autonomy and accessibility, the aroma of inclusiveness, of freedom from wariness, that cling to the word ‘home’ and are absent from ‘house’ or even ‘my house’. Home is a concept, not a place; it is a state of mind where self-definition starts; it is origins — the mix of time and place and smell and weather wherein one first realizes one is an original, perhaps ‘like’ others, especially those one loves, but discrete, distinct, not to be copied. Home is where one first learned to be separate and it remains in the mind as the place where reunion, if it ever were to occur, would happen.”

As a family therapist, I love the way Giamatti casts the catcher and batter as siblings, the players as family, “facing the world together, each with separate responsibilities and tasks and perspectives…….”  And the idea of “home as a concept, not a place, but a state of mind” resonates with so much of my work, but particularly couples therapy, where a person or relationship can come to feel like “home.”

So, undeterred by this misery of packing and unpacking,  I’m acutely aware of my privilege in just having a home, and the capacity to feel at home in my community.

I rededicate myself to the work of collaborating with the families I see to facilitate that feeling of belonging, in relationships and in community.

Whether you gather this winter season with your kinship family, or your family of choice, I wish you the sense of peace and belonging, of “freedom from wariness,” that is home.


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About Me

About Me

Dr. Hudak is dedicated to bringing research about the family into public discourses, weaving together the private stories that portray the often hidden cultural landscapes of our time. She is a popular speaker with both professional and lay audiences, addressing topics pertaining to relationships and the family life cycle.