Many of you may know that I grew up in Sarajevo, Bosnia, halfway across the world from where I live now, and that my parents still travel the world as missionaries. Recently, my mom posted their newest newsletter, a post to keep family, friends, and supporters updated with their newest transition back to Sarajevo. In her newsletter, my mom asked a question: “Where IS home?”
“What is a home? Look around and think about what makes your house a home, especially when the kids come back for the holidays. Familiar pictures on the wall, a comfy sofa where you watched movies with the family on Friday nights, familiar dishes and food, or a favorite blanket or stuffed animal…. What can [our children] come home to now?
Maybe they feel lost, like me sometimes. Confused about where I belong. Where IS home? America is so different from what we left in 1999. Bosnia is not my home language or culture. I feel most comfortable with other Americans or Internationals wherever I go. What about the kids? What do they talk about with their friends? Most people are only slightly interested in a foreign land they have not visited. “What did you do there and what was it like?” These are not easy to answer in 5 or 10 minutes of so many years spent somewhere else….”The Jones Family Journey Newsletter, June 2019 – Jenny Jones
Talking with my parents on Father’s Day, I realized that I don’t have a problem with letting people and places go or saying goodbye. I’ve done it my whole life, so why would anything change now? People coming in and out of my life is normal. Having my parents on the other side of the world, a continent away, a state away, or just down the hall is normal, and can sometimes all happen in the same week.
Home has been so many places for me: Sarajevo (the house on the hill and the house down the hill), Atlanta, the house in Stone Mountain, the house in Jonesboro, the house in Eagle’s Landing, CIU in Columbia, Atlanta, Camp Sandy Cove in West Virginia, Cedar Campus in Michigan, and back to Columbia again.
I think as a missionary kid, someone who feels as though they’re part of three cultures instead of one or two, the biggest fear is that you may never find your place. You may never find your home. You may never fit in or feel comfortable or at peace. I’ve always said “Home is where your stuff is” because my heart has been divided over the years and scattered across the winds to the four corners of the earth. People and places will come and go, something I accept as normal and natural.
Mom, you worry a lot about your kids. Most moms do. But I want you to know that I don’t ever regret being raised overseas. I don’t regret having moved around or having so many connections to the world. The memories I have of “Home for the Holidays” or the images that come to mind when I think of home are, to me, the experiences rather than the place.
Home is driving all over Europe in a van dad turned into a camper, huddled around a laptop watching The Flintstones and Annie Oakley in black and white while a storm rages outside. Home is spending thousands of hours on a swing set dad built in the backyard, pumping our legs on those three swings until we were afraid we’d sail right off into the stars. Home is dancing around the living room to Alan Jackson and pretending to be disgusted when mom and dad would kiss in the kitchen. Home is making grandma’s Sugar and Spice cookies with mom, savoring every drip of American molasses. Home is watching dad burst out laughing because someone sent us Oreos, or mom grinning from ear to ear because our suitcases are loaded with peanut butter and TSA is giving us weird looks. Home is doing history at the dining room table, science on the front porch, and math at the grocery store. Home is all the secret places I used to hide, under the piano and on the roof. Home is sliding down the hallway in our socks, snowboarding in the backyard, sneaking a bite of cookie dough, and burning the last sacred pop tart. Home is playing dressup, making nerf wars home videos, playing airplane stewardess on the stairs, being afraid of the octopus monster in the pantry, birthday parties, Christmas mornings, and Easter egg hunts.
Home is Dungeons and Dragons on Friday nights. Home is going swimming with Allan, and laughing when we’re both so wrinkly we look like prunes. Home is making dinner together and cuddling into the couch for binge watching Good Omens, or Queer Eye, or Stargate. Home is painting miniatures, sewing costumes, reading quietly on the couch, rearranging our bedroom for the 15th time, and playing frisbee on the lawn. Home is mini golf and Halo with friends, laughing until our sides hurt, spending too much time in thrift stores, and chowing down on waaaaaay too much chocolate pudding.
And as I grow, and Allan and my lives expand and our circles change, home will be friends over for dinner, late night games, babies, gymnastics, soccer mom orange slices, camping trips, debates, and late night discussions. When we have kids, home will be first steps, first words, first book, first comic convention, first prom, first place trophies, first failed class, and first broken bone.
Home is the memories I’ve made in the past, the ones I make every day, and the one’s I’ll make in the future. Home is a day well spent, people well loved, and time well had.
And that is home to me.