AT HOME IN OUR HOME
By Scott Cameron
For an eighteen-year-old afraid to admit he was homesick, Gene and Charlotte England’s house in Palo Alto was a refuge. I liked everything about it, from the seasoned oak paneling in the dining room rising to a height of five feet, to the incandescent light bulbs in the living room. My freshman dorm, Trancos, was eternally bathed in cold, florescent light.
But it wasn’t the house or its furnishing I looked forward to each Wednesday evening. It was the way I felt when I walked in the door. It was a safe place, a familiar place, where not one thought about the student body presidents, and the all-Los Angeles quarterbacks, and the fathers and their fishing fleets off the coast of Juneau could intrude.
I have been trying to remember those days; trying to review how Gene and Charlotte did it. Was it Charlotte’s smile; her brownies? Was it the welcome in Gene’s voice; the way he laughed? Was it the off-handed conversations that became so important before they closed? I do not know how Gene was able to get such a shy band of undergraduate Mormon refuges to think and talk and share their opinions.
It was more than the warmth of incandescent light bulbs, I know. In fact, it was another kind of warmth—the warmth of human kindness emanating from two ordinary, remarkable humans—a warmth that soothes and heals like a balm totally foreign to mere empathy.
I must admit I cry a little as I think of it. I’d like to return to those seemingly unstructured conversations that inevitably ended in the right place. If I could, I would store up some “England balm” to apply to my homesick friends of whatever age whenever they come to my door. What a blessing it would be to help them feel as I did more than forty years ago: at home.