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1128151735-1The past several years have been the most puzzling ones for me. They contained professional, health, financial, and emotional challenges. Sometimes, crises came in multiples. Some were brief while others stretched seasons and years.

There were times I didn’t even feel like I knew myself. There were times when reaction replaced reason. I’ve looked back on how I handled certain situations and felt alternately lucky, proud, and mortified. (You can’t get ’em all right. Sometimes you go so far wrong you can’t figure out how you got there.)

I’ve been in my home state of New Jersey for the last few days. When I visit, my schedule is usually a crowded tour of the state’s fine highways. Close friends live in south, central, and northern Jersey, as well as in New York City and New York State.

This visit has been more than a litany of local destinations, though. It’s been more like a journey back to myself.

It’s funny how home sometimes does that to you.

It may be that my brother is here, or because we visited the beach with our kids. It might have been seeing my college roommate, or the liesurely Thanksgiving dinner itself.

Today, we went shopping for my parents’ Christmas tree, and in under an hour it was up and decorated. The youngest kids iced gingerbread cookies. Mom baked a cake. Dad watched hockey. The rest of us relaxed in unhurried mutual company: Here’s a headline…I heard this joke…Have you seen that TV show?…I love this actress.

It’s such a lovely, light, and familiar thing: to exist with people, and without conflict. Home wasn’t always like that — but even if there was a fight, the consequences were not dire. As a kid you could screw up, but you couldn’t screw up everything.

Maybe this weekend has taught me that as parents, we should create an environment that our kids can come back to, year after year, and regain a sense of security.

Maybe sloughing the perplexing complexity of adulthood is what makes up the charm and the sanctuary of home.

It explains why it can be such a relief to visit, and also why you can’t stay for too long.