Remembering Family and Home

Remembering Family and Home

Gregory Han
Jul 8, 2008

The 4th of July weekend is always a bittersweet affair in my life. While there are plenty of wonderful memories of holiday barbecues and gatherings spent at home with the family, it also marks the weekend when my father passed away 8 years ago. Each year, I return home to spend time with my mom, sister, and our significant others to memorialize my father, share our favourite memories and just spend time together. It's during this weekend each, the idea and memories of "home" become especially strong...

My father's remains rest near a lovely flowering magnolia tree, surrounded by gently landscaped hills dotted with headstones and trees. The cemetery is a beautiful setting, with the solitude and silence during the holiday weekend allowing visitors like myself a contemplative opportunity to be alone with our memories. I'd like to return sometime soon just to take in the beautiful setting and walk the grounds, as there are many birds, insects, trees and flowers that make the cemetery more a park of life rather than a site of death.

Each of us remembers or mourns in our own way, but each time I visit the cemetery I remember not so much of what I've lost, but fondly appreciate all the memories I was blessed to share with my dear departed father. After visiting my father's grave, I couldn't help but feel assured that he doesn't rest there in the ground, but resides in each of the rooms of the house I grew up in. His loud laughs and cheers while watching the Dodgers in the living room, the merry melodies sung while whipping us up a late night snack of cheese and fruit in the kitchen, the sight of him quietly and diligently working in his home office, the remaining signs of his DIY repairs throughout the house...they're all reminders that a home is not made by the physical things that fill it, but is shaped by the times we share and experience within it.

Despite its tract home heritage, my childhood home is special for the fact that my half of my life was shaped by living within those four walls. The mismatched upholstery, suburban trappings, wall-to-wall carpeting, dark-glossy entryway tiles, the popcorn ceiling...they seem so utterly different from the place I now call home (and likely a great reason why I rebelled against it). Yet, they're comforting in their own strange way because they're forever recognizable as my own history. They smell, feel and look forever welcoming irregardless of the mismatched elements.

So whenever I visit another person's home, whether it be friends, family or someone who invites me in for a house tour, I remember to try to look at their home through the eyes of the person who lives there. What may seem obtuse may actually be a memory intact or a preference preserved. And it's those differences that make each and every one of our homes uniquely our own. Charm, whether it be in character or decor, comes from imperfections reinvented, but it takes an open mind and heart to sometimes appreciate them.

It makes me wonder when we redecorate or rearrange, are we trying to do the same with our own memories? That our desire for change is driven by a compulsion to forget or is it simply to start anew?

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