No Matter Our Age, There’s No Place Like Home

When I was a child, I loved The Wizard of Oz. And since I grew up in an era long, long before DVD, Netflix or On-Demand, we had to wait a whole year between viewings for the movie to be shown again on TV. In our house it became a night for a special occasion!

Not surprisingly, The Wizard of Oz was usually shown on a Sunday night when families would gather around TV, and often a month or two before the holiday season to remind us of the importance of home. Mom always gave us dispensation to stay up past our bedtimes to watch it, even though she knew some of us (my younger sister Ann and I) would most likely suffer from nightmares later in the night.

While my sisters, brother and I watched the movie, we munched stove-popped popcorn and sipped Ginger Ale. Sometimes as an added bonus, we enjoyed a dish of vanilla ice cream with mom’s special, homemade chocolate sauce. To this day, my mouth waters when I think of that decadently rich and fudgey sauce steaming over two big scoops of vanilla ice cream!

That’s certainly a memory worth savoring over and over again!

But it’s not just how the popcorn and ice cream tasted that still brings me pleasure when I think of those treats. It’s the feelings of comfort, belonging and security that go hand-in-hand with them that makes me feel good when I think of them, no matter what might be happening in my life at the present.

As a child watching Dorothy and her eclectic collection of friends battle the wicked witch, I knew no matter how scary parts of the movie might be, I was safe, cared for and loved. No harm could come to me while I happily swirled ice cream and sauce together to make chocolate soup in my dish.

I had many “favorite” parts of that movie, the most satisfying coming from the thrice spoken phrase Dorothy repeated while clicking the heels of her magical red shoes together. From all the trials, she’d finally learned the simple truth needed in order to return to her beloved home where safety, comfort and love awaited her and Toto, too!

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home!”

For most of us, home is where we grow up with our parents and often a sibling or two or more. When I was a kid, TV shows like Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best and Ozzie and Harriet were the norm and exemplified the traditional family unit. Years later, blended families, professional families and large families like The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and The Waltons gained popularity.

And today, we watch Modern Family, about an endearing extended family with mixed-up and crossed-over everything! Like Dorothy, who was raised in a loving family headed by her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry, it doesn’t matter what your “family” is comprised of, or who the “parents” are who raise you or how many people make up the “family” you care about!

When I met my husband Jim, his father had already passed away many years earlier, but his mother was still alive. I grew to deeply love my mother-in-law and cherished the hours we spent with a cup of tea, toast and her delicious homemade marmalade (there’s that food-to-good-memory connection again!) talking about her favorite pastimes of gardening, reading, and cooking and of course, her children and grandchildren.

A couple years after we married, our first daughter was born in 1990. Just two weeks later my mother-in-law Janet died. She was living with us at the time and in hospice care due to her advanced leukemia. It was a bittersweet time, losing our beloved Janet while welcoming our beautiful new baby, Hayley.

At the time my parents were alive healthy and quite vigorous. I ached for my husband, his brother and sisters as I watched them grieve for the loss of their last parent, and I marveled at their strength. I could not imagine life without my mother and father! We still spent all of our holidays together, shared most momentous occasions, talked at least once a week by phone and as young parents, Jim and I counted on my folks for the weekend respites from child-care they offered from time-to-time.

When my mother died suddenly in 1997, I felt like my world had collapsed.

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