What Is Home?

Playing Solitaire at the Salvation Army

© Donny Hornstein

I’ve known quite a few persons in my life for 50+ years. Some, have only really become what I’d call a friend in the last 10 years or so. I’ve known my friend, Willie since December 2000, almost 14 years. Yet, I would say he is not only one of my closest friends, but someone who knows me almost as well as my birth brother. In some ways, better.

Here’s some history. In December 2000, Willie and I had both signed up to do a New Warrior Training Adventure. We were assigned to carpool together. We emailed a few times before we actually left for our training and I liked him from the get-go. He uses a Mac, so I knew he must be good people. I think he would agree, that weekend was life changing; it was for me, for sure. On that weekend, one of the things I noticed about Willie was how social a person he is. While I was content, maybe not the right word, to stay in my own little world, Willie probably knew every man on the weekend before it was over. There were probably 40 or more men there.

Willie, as long as I’ve known him, is what I call a Golden Child. What I mean by that, he could fall down in a hog trough full of manure and come up smelling like he’d just bathed in rose water. Putting it another way, from one of the two brief stints I’ve had in what’s called network marketing or multi-level marketing, one of my leaders there once said, “If you could build a church, you can be very successful here.” Willie is the kind of person who, if he started a church tomorrow, which right now would be Saturday, would have a full congregation on Sunday.

For several years, Willie’s been working on a project he calls “We Are All Homeless.” At first, this was about his buying the cardboard signs from the folks on the side of the road. He’s since had a few gatherings of friends, holding the signs he’s bought, in fairly prominent places around Dallas. He’s done a TEDx talk on it. He’s had art gallery showings. And now, he’s making a movie. A full length documentary. He’s been interviewed by many newspapers, TV and Radio stations, to include a segment on NPR’s All Things Considered. Like I said, a Golden Child.

Yesterday, at lunch, we talked. About how my job hunt was going. About how I was healing from my surgery. And, about his film. It sounds to be an extraordinary endeavor with all kinds of persons getting involved. Who knows, with Willie, it might win a documentary Academy Award. During the course of lunch and the conversation, Willie hit me with a question I wasn’t prepared for. Would I be willing to be interviewed for the film about what home means to me? I was both flattered and frightened. I don’t do my best thinking spontaneously in person; that’s why I write. I answered him with a partial truth: Having been a former photojournalist, I was much more comfortable behind the camera than I was in front of it. The real, untold story, until now, is I was much more frightened about not being so eloquent on camera. So, this blog piece is my way of taking care of me. I can think out my answer here, before I’m in front of the camera. And, this may just be a start to think about how and what I’ll really say when the time comes.

So, What is Home?

It’s where I feel safe. When I was young, and living in my parents home, I mostly felt safe. On the odd times when my father was raging, no, but most other times, yes. And, I must admit, I was a great trigger for his raging. I knew, in many cases, just how to get him started. His raging and my ability to start it was one of many reasons, beside being married only for three years in my 50s, why I chose not to have children. I told myself, if I had a boy like me, I’d have to kill him. I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but it always felt true to how I saw myself as a catalyst for my father’s rage.

Home is where I can hide from the world. I’ve never been much of a social animal, so home is where I can stay to hide away from everyone else. Much of the time, I like my solitude. Some times, I don’t. But, the majority of the time, I do. I can sit, watch TV, read, listen to music or the radio, and not have to worry about someone else not liking what I’m doing.

I’m pretty crummy as a decorator. So, my home looks, well, like a bachelor lives there. I will admit, there are often times I wish I had what most would call a ‘normal’ home. Well decorated, nice furniture, clean. Instead, there’s always stuff piled everywhere. Not as bad as some homes I’ve seen, but nowhere near as nice as others I’ve admired. Yet, there must be a part of me that doesn’t really care what my home looks like. Else, I would do something about it. So home is a place for me which doesn’t need the approval of others; and, sometimes I’m embarrassed to invite someone in.

Home is also a place to be thankful for. I’m grateful everyday I have someplace to call home. I’ve gone through periods of unemployment and slow work where I was deathly afraid I’d wind up under an overpass somewhere – like many of the persons Willie has purchased signs from. I mentioned this to him once. I remember him saying, “That’s not gonna happen.” Somehow, I believed him and that particular fear has not come back a knockin’ for a long time now.

I like to cook. I don’t do much cooking outside of simple things anymore, but when I do, I enjoy it. So, home is a place I can nourish my body with food I prepare.

This is something I’ve only recently discovered about myself. I really like clean sheets at least, usually only, once a week. So, home is a place to crawl under clean sheets to sleep on a Friday night.

Finally, home is my place. Where I live. Where I sleep. Where I spend time. Where I can have a friend over if I want. Where I can call this place, my own. Home, in other words, is where I want home to be. All the time. Anytime.

I’m sure there are other things I’ve not thought of here. Maybe I’ll think of them when Willie and his crew put a camera and microphone in my face. At any rate, stay golden Willie boy. Thanks for the challenge.

How Am I Changing?: I’m willing to take a stretch when a friend asks me if I’d be willing to do so.

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4 Responses to What Is Home?

  1. Willie Baronet says:

    You are golden too, my brother. I can see the glow from here. 🙂 Love you.

  2. Conovaloff Tanya says:

    What a beautiful poignant post! Love it Donny!

  3. David Davis says:

    I see you…and celebrate how you are changing. As I often hear, if we’re not moving toward the light, we’re moving away from it.

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