Friday, February 10, 2012

Home


"Home, I learned, can be anywhere you make it. 
Home is also the place to which you come back again and again."

                                                                                                    Margaret Mead 
                                                                                                    1901-1978
                                                                                                    Anthropologist

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Our oldest son is a college sophomore. During the school year, he lives in a dorm room 250 miles away from our home in northwest Iowa. Last summer, he lived in a sparsely-furnished apartment 150 miles away, and this past January, he lived out of suitcase while traveling and studying in Ireland, England, and France. 

His siblings joke that his bedroom is a guest room and he, a guest.

In some ways, he is. His life is dictated by breaks from school and internships; his free time, a choice between family and friends.  He decides when he’ll sleep in the bedroom at the top of the stairs in the house he’s called home since he was three years old.

I’d not considered the many pieces that factor into that decision until recently, and I’m surprised at my reluctance to acknowledge that it truly is his decision to make. For a long time, I didn’t even think there was much of a decision to make.

But there is.  Opportunities to experience life on the other side of the state or in another part of the world and of making friendships that might last a lifetime are just as important as grilling hamburgers in the backyard. So now, I concentrate on the quality of the time he sits on our couch or eats at our table instead of the actual number of days he spends within our four walls.

And really: I know he won’t call any of those other living arrangements “home” for a while. He left his dirty clothes in a pile on his bedroom floor the last time he was here. 

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About Margaret Mead
Margaret Mead is best known for her 1925-1926 study of the adolescent girl in Samoa, and her findings became one of the best-selling anthropology books of all time (Coming of Age in Samoa, 1928). Her descriptions of the casual love girls experienced in a society where sex was natural and pleasurable shocked its late-1920s readers, but made it popular reading for years.

Shortly after the book’s publication, she started writing for the general public even though it was unusual for academic research to be read by the public at large in the 1930s. Her work was published widely in Redbook, Parents Magazine, Woman’s Day, McCall’s, Family Circle, The Nation, The New Republic, and The New York Times. In the 1950s and 1960s, she also appeared on late-night TV.

In addition to the Samoans, Mead studied the South Seas people of Manus, Arapesh, Mundugumor, Tchambuli, Balinese, and Iatmul. Her long career is particularly noteworthy because it focused on topics not seen as important at that time (childhood, adolescence, sex roles, women, and family life).

The quote, above, is from her memoir, Blackberry Winter, which she wrote in 1972 “to describe the kinds of experiences that have made me what I am, myself, and to sort out the kinds of experiences that might become part of a way of bringing up children and of seeing the world that includes the past and the future as aspects of the present – the present of any generation.”

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