I am home after a whirlwind, week-long road trip (twelve hours each way) to the East Coast to visit old friends. Four different houses I stayed in; four sets of friends opened up their homes to me and my family in the middle of work and school demands and welcomed our often tired and hungry selves into their lives for a bit.
When my six-year-old daughter visits a friend’s house for the first time, she clings to me until she can muster up the courage to ask the most important item on her agenda, expressed in a shy whisper: “I want to see her room.” I can relate to that. Inside each of my friends’ houses and apartments – even visiting George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon and and touring the offices at the Latvian Embassy in Washington, D.C. – is like its own little museum to observe, to appreciate, to help one understand each resident a little better. And I get to feel their lives for a moment: I am a traveling diplomat when I browse the wall of a friend’s photos from around the world; I get to watch TV and drink coffee surrounded by beautiful paintings in the homes of friends who are artists; I get shivers when I stroll by the wall of black-and-white portraits of ambassadors who maintained a diplomatic “house” despite the Soviet Union’s occupation of their home country; I shudder at the conditions of the rooms that slaves once lived and worked in on Washington’s plantation home; and I find comfort in the artwork of my friends’ children, who have posted their work on the fridge and their bedroom doors using stickers and lots of tape.
This last week, I saw home as a place of refuge; home as a place to keep treasures from another land; home as a terrible burden of work and suffering; home as a place to create and admire beauty. Here is a bit of what I saw: