The Many Meanings of Home | Inside Yankee

The Many Meanings of Home.

By Mel Allen

Feb 17 2021

Since arriving in New England in 1970, I have called more than 20 different houses my home. That sort of rootlessness is no doubt why I am drawn to stories about people whose roots trace back through generations. When we moved into our current house in 2008, we researched the names of the men and women who had lived there since it was built in 1831. I knew they looked at the same brick walls, the same river; they built fires and made meals here. They saw horses and buggies where I see trucks and too many cars, but most likely we all walked many times in the cemetery just down the road, a place that is nearly as old as the town itself.

In New England, our house is one of the newbies. In many towns you see houses from one or even two centuries earlier. There are many ways in which this region is different from any other, but the home connection from past to present is near the top of the list. In some ways I think the core of Yankee has always been writing about the many meanings of home. And over the past year, our homes have also morphed into our offices, schools, fitness centers, restaurants, cinemas, churches—sometimes all in one day. We’ve had no choice but to burrow in.

Which brings us to this issue. From start to finish, nearly every page links us to house, land, place. From a tale of modern DIY creativity remaking an abandoned Rhode Island Victorian [“How to Love a House”] to the saga of a historic house uprooted from Connecticut and reborn in Savannah, Georgia [“The House Whisperer”], these stories reveal how homes can change us even as we change them.

A home can also speak to deeper feelings. It can mean identity, and where we know we need to be. Jamie Kageleiry’s “A Beautiful Hiding Place” is in many ways a love song to her island home. She wants others to know the secret places on Martha’s Vineyard, whose beauty and solitude offer refuge to today’s visitors as they have for many others over the decades. It is not so much a story about travel as it is a story of finding a sense of belonging.

Wherever you live, I hope these pages let you look at your own house, your own place, with new appreciation as we make our way ever so gingerly to the true spring that awaits—when the land turns green, and we open the windows here in the north, and watch in wonder as all the birds we have not seen in so long come back to nest, as we knew they would.

Mel Allen

To catch up on Mel Allen’s biweekly “Letter from Dublin,” go to