Leaving Home, Homeward Bound

In our lives, most of us live in many places but few we think of as home. For the less fortunate, home may be as distant as the nearest galaxy. I have been most fortunate to have several places I could call home.

In my first few years on this planet, home was Robinson Avenue in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Vague, swirling memories hide in the deepest synapses of my brain’s cortex and limbic system. Flashing to the surface through unexpected and random stimuli.

I know I lived there, some memories and old home movies confirm it, but it wouldn’t be my first answer to the question where did you grow up.

In 1962, we had the good fortune to move to Harriet Lane in Cumberland, Rhode Island. This was my first home. Aside from saving me from the impending doom of Catholic School in Pawtucket, it plopped me down into the most fantastic place to grow from childhood to adulthood.

This opened a whole new world to me, free to explore to my heart’s content. My friends and I spent countless hours climbing trees, wandering the woods, capturing frogs, snakes, turtles (and releasing them.) Sledding down the street after snowstorms, playing kick the can in the road, lying in the sun on a warm summer day, or catching fireflies as night fell with nothing to concern us but what caught our fancy.

I can still see the trails we followed along meandering streams to scum covered ponds. Hopping from mound to mound in swamps. One swamp we referred to as Alligator Swamp, although no one ever questioned why.

Some claimed they saw ‘gators, our own version of an urban myth. We doubted it but avoided the place just in case.

The home expanded over time. Three more siblings to the original two of my sister Peggy and I. To accommodate the growing troop of children of Peg and Joe Broadmeadow, physical additions were built.

The memories here are closer to the surface. Easier to recall. Almost endless in number. This was a home. And while some may see sadness in the way we left there, for me, it will always be my first home.

Like many young adults, I entered what can only be described as a nomadic period. I had nothing resembling a home.

I had an address. A space. A focal point. One that changed every few months or years.

The nomadic period ended, as it often does with young men, because of a woman.

In 1981, Susan and I married and moved into a house on Belview Street in Seekonk, Massachusetts. This became my second home. Our original plan of staying there for five years turned into nineteen, punctuated by such events as a pool, two dogs, a fence around the yard, eight fruit trees, vinyl siding, redone hardwood floors, and many hours cutting the grass and painting the house.

And then there was a child, Kelsey Broadmeadow, who turned what was already a home into the best home ever.

Kelsey can speak for herself—which she does well and without reservation—but I would hazard a guess she thinks of this as her home.

But time, like yesterday’s breakfast, moves on.

After nineteen years, we built a house in Rehoboth, Massachusetts and moved—lock, stock, and barrel—to a new home.

This became the home where Kelsey would launch her own nomadic period. Moving out on her own to college in Florida, then law school in Connecticut. While Quinnipiac Law is an excellent school, the decision to go there, tempered by her time in Florida where the memories of winter in New England mellowed, caused moments of regret. Something she experienced soon after the first snowstorm turned her car into an unrecognizable mound of snow.

Part of the learning curve of nomadic life.

Facing the specter of the empty nest, my wife and I entered a temporary period of nomadic existence ourselves. Flirting with a move to Florida before deciding to sell the house and downsize into a condo in Lincoln, Rhode Island.

The condo became our base of operations for various expeditions. Ecuador, Costa Rica, Germany, Aruba, Southeast Asia, Morocco, and a short walk along the entire Appalachian Trail. It is a perfect base of operations. Pleasant, quiet, convenient to the bike path and fishing in the Blackstone River (who’d believe that?)

But to call it home would be a stretch. We’ve enjoyed living here, but we also enjoyed living in a tent.

None qualify as a home.

Thus, it is time to end the last of the nomadic wanderings of Joe and Susan Broadmeadow and go home. We began packing boxes and taking stock of things to keep and things to let go. Soon, we will move into our house in Cranston near where Kelsey and her husband, Chuck, have their first home.

For now, the proximity makes it easier for us to get to our unofficial but critical function of caring for their dogs, Ralph and Seamus. More servants, than caregivers. Fulfilling the demands of dogs who see themselves as superior to all other creatures.

Dogs have a much different concept of home. Home is where they are as long as someone feeds them, nothing else matters.

No one can predict the future, but we hope something more complicated will arrive in the home of Kelsey and Chuck. We look forward to expanding our creature-sitting skills to include sentient beings with interests in things other than slimy dog toys and taking turns peeing on each other’s heads.

All possibilities exist.

But I know this. My days as a nomad are over. The cycle is complete. I started out in a home, and this is the home where it will end. I will carry boxes in but leave wearing a toe tag in a body bag with someone else carrying me out.

But not yet. I follow Dylan Thomas’s advice and rage against the dying of the light. I will not go quietly into that good night, but I will go someday.

I intend this to be the home I lived in longer than any other. To make that goal, I need to be here a little over nineteen years. Let’s round up and call it twenty. If I stay until 2039, when I will be eighty-three years old, it will set a record.

I intend to break that old record by a wide margin. For now, I will just enjoy being home “where my music’s playing.”

“Homeward bound
Home where my thought’s escaping
Home where my music’s playing
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me…”

(Paul Simon, Homeward Bound Homeward Bound lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group)

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