They say ”you can never go home again,” but is it true? Doesn’t the word "home" imply that you can return, that you will always be welcome unconditionally, and regardless of anything?
I was reminded of the more metaphorical meanings of this saying this week while staying in the US with my daughter, her husband and their new daughter-- my first granddaughter. We were discussing some practices from the time when my daughters were babies, about thirty years ago, in the US.
My daughter listened patiently to me and then told me, with a half embarrassed smile, that those practices were no longer used. Nowadays new regulations indicate that the baby should not sleep on her stomach without supervision, that she should not drink water (but that has been true for years). There are also strict regulations about furniture which mean that she can no longer sleep in the family crib or in the cradle, built thirty years ago by a loving uncle. These are only few examples from a long list of practices and objects which could no longer be used. .
My daughter, a responsible and sensible mother, only wants what is best for her baby. Still it made me sad that, due to safety reasons, my daughter and her daughter are deprived of the connection with the family history: her baby will not sleep in the same cradle that her father had slept in.
The main reason for those strict regulations is to prevent, as much as possible, Sudden Infant Death. I still remember the horrible fear of SIDS when my own daughters were babies. Then we were not aware that anything could be done about it. Nowadays, thanks to the new regulations, this syndrome has almost been eradicated.
But then yesterday my daughter went through the baby’s clothes showing me what she had received from family members and friends. Some of the items looked old and used, still she wanted to keep them. Moreover, my daughter tried to convince me to return new gifts of clothes claiming that she already had more than enough. I argued that it was fun to dress a new baby with new clothes.
At first I didn’t see why she wanted to keep the old clothes, but later I understood. Wearing clothes that came from cousins and friends was a way to maintain the important connection with the past. The baby was surrounded with so much new and impersonal equipment, that my daughter preferred the meaningful clothes to those new ones which were still sterile.
Dressing the baby with hand-me-down clothes from people that you care about, is an act of bonding, and it is a way to go home again.
Besides, it promotes another important value, that of social and consumer responsibility. It is especially significant in a place like the US where consumers goods are so abundant and inexpensive that it is too easy to buy everything new.
I can compare this type of responsibility to the growing movement toward adoption of rescue pets, why spend money on one pedigree dog when so many other need a home?
And speaking of home, later today I will fly back to Israel; my daughter, her American husband, half American daughter, and her Israeli dog will remain in their home in the US. Staying with this young family I had to expand the meaning of home with the help of another saying: “home is where your heart is.” Indeed part of mine will remain with them.