Coming Home

Over the past few years, I have been making a journey home. I don't mean coming home after a day at the office, or coming home after being away on vacation or a business trip. I mean going home as in finding my way through my past and through life in order to find out where--and who--I am right now, coming home to myself.

Much of the journey is emotional and spiritual, but there is some irony in the fact that five years ago I moved into the Upper West Side Manhattan apartment in which I grew up. So, my journey home has been literal, too. My parents passed away after long wretched illnesses and in order to save the apartment, I moved in to make it my primary residence. Now, there's definitely very good reason people say you can't go home again. Ghosts. Memories. The faint echo of harsh voices. The hushed heaviness of grief. The whispers of promise. The vapors of growing up. The swirling dusts of memory twined with present, triggered by the dent in the sideboard from banging into it on roller skates and hearing mom, "Don't do that! How many times do I have to tell you?!"; the acrid cigarette and coffee and Old Spice dad-smell imbedded in that chair, the quicksilver out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye deja-vu over and over again. Have I been here before? Yes, I have.

I've become convinced that facing ghosts is absolutely critical to my well-being, to my growing up as an adult. In facing them, braving them. In braving them, vanquishing them. Putting them in their rightful place--a place not nearly as powerful or important as who I am now, the little-girl-turned-adult-woman who is making herself a home. Indeed, I have made myself at home. The primitive Americana sideboard graces the dining room; the musty upholstered furniture has all gone to Goodwill; the windows are open and the most amazing leaves and little bugs come visiting from Central Park; my family is here filling the rooms with laughter and ideas and plans; and the little storage room behind the kitchen that mom always intended to clean out so she could have an office ("someday...") has become my office.

"Home" has many definitions. One is "at ease." It is all we can hope for that we grow up, letting our childhoods inform who and what we will be as adults, in order to be at ease with ourselves. Coming home.

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC


  1. And sometimes it takes facing--and conquering--trauma to be at ease with ourselves. You faced enough trauma in the last year. You so deserve to come home!

  2. Oh, how I understand, as I sit in my study in a house built in 1774. The ghosts that sometimes move aside when I pass are all in my head, and sometimes in my books, but the study is all mine, at least for my lifetime. So glad you're home.

  3. Margaret O'Hair12/09/2009

    I can't think of a better way to start the New Year, then to put new ideas and dreams into those walls.

    Merry Christmas, Emma.

    I hope that in 2010 and beyond. . .all your dreams come true.


  4. Miriam Nerlove12/09/2009

    "facing those ghosts and vanquishing them...",
    oh how I can relate! Loved this entry, Emma, and how beautifully you express those feelings.
    Thank you for writing and sharing!**xox

  5. Anonymous12/09/2009

    We have more in common, Emma, than I ever imagined. My father passed, a couple years back now, and as I've shared, we were extremely close. My mother and I, not so much. In fact, not at all. My father was my world. When he passed there was the question of what to do with the family home, a home my father built of his own designed, of his own imaginings, some things (special cupboards uniquely sculpted, drawers imagined into nooks and crannies where none believed they could fit) of his own hands. It was his dream home, Spanish Mediterranean in style, etched first onto primitive drafting paper, brought to life some 20 years later. He finally made money at his business at the age of 47, finally had the funds to build. I was 6. The last of five children left at home, I was the only one ever raised in it. I remember standing inside the studs being introduced to my future bedroom, him telling me about his dream, his boyish smile, knowing that at last, it was coming true. I remember the Spanish tile, imported for the hallway, the smell for the wooden boxes off the ship. How he held them in his hands so carefully, like glass, his eyes tearing at the glory of knowing he, of all people, he could afford it. I remember walking out to the river bank, discussing where we'd place trees, what kind, and watching him puff up with the pride of an Englishman able to own a piece of land backing onto the Thames, (even if it were only in Canada.) I remember living there, loving it, the open space, the fancy decor, but most of all the horses next door that fast became my best friends. I remember longing to save it...to purchase it...to hold onto my father's dream for him forever...and not having the funds to be able to make that happen. Watching it go. Watching strangers move it. Walking away for the last time.

    Though it too would have swirled with various ghosts and endless memories, some happy, some not, some devastatingly hard to face, there isn't a day that doesn't go by that I don't long to return. To have that chance to go home again.

    So, my advice to you, think like my Dad, turn that brick and mortar into your own amazing treasure, your own dream, filled with your own wonderful memories. Tuck the old ones, only the ones worth saving into the corners, let them add a little character, and discard the rest.

    xox Jackie Pynaert

  6. Lovely, Emma, really lovely. Gulp. - Anne Z

  7. Hmmm. At ease with ourselves. Perfect.

  8. Home, at ease, relaxed ... enjoy the beauty and wonder and those amazing memories of the beautiful place called Home.
    Like you I adore my home - it is where I feel the best (especially with my wife here).
    hugs to you

  9. For you, this is going to be an amazing journey. Buckle in, enjoy the ride and chuck those bunnies and ducks. It's time to get down to the real business of digging. It's nice hearing your voice.

  10. Anonymous12/10/2009

    Dear, Dear Em,
    You are a generous friend and a generous writer. thanks for letting us into your world...once again.


  11. I also came home and did so to save my parents' old Cape Codder. I moved from France a dozen years ago, and cared for them. Dad passed in 1999; my mom, 3 years ago. I turned their home into a green bed & breakfast so I could continue to live here. The house, too, is full of memories. I like to think of it as wealth, this connection to the past.

    I'm glad you have started blogging and look forward to reading future posts ...

  12. What an incredibly beautiful piece . . .

  13. Soon, your home will drape you in "now" and add little embellishments of memory that you can button and unbutton when needed.

    A colleague of mine pointed me to your blog - I'm so glad she did!


  14. Anonymous12/13/2009

    I'm glad that you allowed yourself the time and space to reflect Emma. The personal investigation process can seem slow, but the gains are worth it in all the right little ways, eh?

  15. A beautiful post. People that have parents do not "totally get" what it's like to have none. It is very strange to have no mother, no father. To become the next generation. At least it is for me. I drive by the apartment building I grew up in. It's for sale. With it's crooked floors, and bendy walls. I peeked inside the windows. I really wanted to go back inside, back in time.