Today, I’m returning to Boston Children’s Hospital,* where I spent many days and nights away from home, between the ages of 8 and 27.
People’s feelings and thoughts about home are shaped by many things. My experience of home was highlighted and shadowed by many experiences at a place that was NOT home for me — the hospital.
Here are my in-the-moment associations with “home”:
- Home is where the heart is (something my late mother used to say).
- I sometimes have a lot of feelings — including fear, sadness, and anxiety — when I have to leave home. These feelings can be out-of-proportion to the current situation and — I believe — influenced by my experiences of home and the hospital, when I was a little kid.
- Between the ages of 8 and 13, being away from home at the hospital was particularly difficult for me, because I had to undergo many scary procedures and surgeries, and — in the 1960’s — Children’s Hospital did not allow parents to stay with their children outside of regular visiting hours.
- When I would arrive at the hospital, in the 1960’s, for yet another stay, I would immediately make myself feel more at home by spending hours on the pay phone, talking to my friends, feeding the phone with a pile of quarters (supplied by my parents).
- Because of my many experiences at the hospital — dealing with a range of different nurses, doctors, and other big people — I am very skilled, to this day, at homing in on who is kind, empathic, and trustworthy and who is not.
- Home = safety, wherever we can find it.
I love that I’m home, as I’m writing this blog post today.
Here are some photos of home:
A penny for your thoughts about this post, so far?
Here’s one of my favorite “home” songs:
When I was home with my family in the 1960’s, Burt Bacharach brought many songs into the home, including this one:
“A House is Not a Home” is making a home here, on YouTube.
What’s your favorite “Home” song?
While I may have some feelings of anxiety and sadness right now, as I prepare to leave home for Children’s Hospital,* it helps to tell myself this:
I am no longer a child. I am an adult now, with control, power, resources, supports, and skills I did not have back in the days when Children’s Hospital was my home-away-from-home.
In my usual free-associative way, I am now thinking about the word “homework” and how — as a psychotherapist — I like to give people homework. Here are some of my associations with “homework” as I’m writing this at home:
- When I give my patients/clients homework and they don’t do it, I tell them, “That wasn’t the right homework” and we try something else.
- When I was in therapy decades ago, working on difficult memories from my hospitalizations, I came up with a particularly helpful homework assignment for myself: to draw a map of the 5th Floor of the Fegan Building of Boston Children’s Hospital, and to illustrate — with pictures and words — vivid experiences that happened to me there, in many rooms and locations on that floor. One thing I drew on that map of the Cardiology Unit at Children’s Hospital from the 1960’s: the nurses’ station, where I spent a lot of time, talking to as many kind adults as I could find there. Another thing I remember drawing on that map, which helped so much in my personal healing: the pay phone with a pile of quarters, located in the hallway off the elevator between the regular hospital rooms and the Intensive Care Unit, where children, including me, recovered from surgery.
In my free-associating style, writing that previous paragraph inspires me to share this movie clip with you, now:
(“E.T. phone home” clip is here, on YouTube.)
I may have felt like an alien, at times in my life, but it always helps me to phone home. Every morning, that’s what I do, here on WordPress.
Thanks to all who do their best to make homes in the world, including you, of course.
* This morning, I’m going back to Children’s Hospital for an outpatient appointment with a new cardiologist. I should be home, soon.