It’s a good thing I’m an attentive driver (well at least 99.9 percent of the time). As I was driving back to San Diego after the Thanksgiving holiday, the driver of a large red pickup with reindeer antlers decided to pull into my lane regardless of my presence.
I was able to slow my momentum to allow this red “reindeered sled” to invade my future space and avoid a collision that would undoubtedly favor the larger hunk of metal — that is, not the hunk of metal I was driving. Instinctively, I reached for the horn — before I saw that the driver was roly poly and had longish white hair and a white beard. He was not wearing a red cap with a furry white ball on the end, but this was almost a month before, well, do I have to tell you?
“Don’t antagonize Santa!” I reproached myself.
Fortunately, my little car’s horn sounds more curious than angry. It’s message could be interpreted as, “Hey, watcha doin’?” versus “What the beep do you think you’re doing, you … bad driver!!!?”
But this blog isn’t about Santa’s off-duty pickup and/or my brave little car. That was just a seasonally appropriate subterfuge, if you will, to lead into my philosophical analysis of “sense of home,” because, you see, I’ve already mentioned the fact that I was in Palm Springs, where I own a home, and was returning to San Diego, where I rent an apartment.
When I arrived at my house in Palm Springs on Thanksgiving Eve (happily at happy hour, after a holiday-traffic drive that took one full hour longer than usual), I was greeted by fresh flowers, a bottle of wine and a plate of crackers with thinly sliced pear. No, my house is not independently, presciently capable of producing such a welcoming treat, which would probably increase my property value to a point that would make the real estate taxes exorbitant; rather, my best pal (who looks after my house in my absence) provided the especially congenial ambiance.
As we sat in my living room with our wine and appetizer, my eyes roamed the room, studying the paintings on the wall that make this environment singularly mine. I’ve come to appreciate my house all the more for not being there every day, which makes me wonder why I had taken it for granted. Why should absence make the heart grow fonder?
Over the next couple of days, I had to tend to maintenance issues, including plenty of yard work. I harvested pomegranates, picked up fallen leaves and managed to snag my neighbor’s landscaping crew to trim a palm tree. I was so happy to see the tree looking freshly coiffed that it made me realize how much every aspect of my home means to me.
A couple days later, I was in San Diego, moving from one apartment complex to another. I unpacked almost all the boxes the same day. When I covered the refrigerator door with my magnet collection (see my earlier post on this) and placed artwork, I saw my new digs transform into a place that makes me feel cozy and helps me sleep well at night.
Laura Ingalls Wilder (my favorite author as a young girl) said, “Home is the nicest word there is.” How true that is.