thinking about place

These lines from Rebecca McClanahan's essay "Goodbye to All This" are resonating today as I drop Michelle off at the airport for her month long adventure in South Africa. About homes and houses:

To inhabit a place, you must move in fully--body and spirit, heart and hand. You must give yourself to it (175).

Do all people carry inside them, like a dream wallet snapshot, the image of a place that feels more like home than any other place they've ever lived? (176)

Home is the place, where, once you have left, you cannot return. I used to think you could. I mean, why not? There's the road to the schoolhouse, there's the fencepost where you sat, there's the garage apartment where you typed your dissertation, why not go back? I pointed to the small white house with the peeling shutters, the house where I was born. My mother sat behind the steering wheel. At my request, she had driven me out into the Indiana countryside, forty-five years into my past.

'That's not the place it was,' she said.

But the photograph was in my hand. It looked the same to me. My mother shook her head and turned away, and in her eyes I saw the home she had left, the one we'd never get back. It was larger and brighter and sadder and sweeter, swelled up with context...



I love that line, "swelled up with context." I've been working on revising and editing my autobiography project and with some of the things I've written lately that phrase has the effect of punching me in the stomach.