Study Guide

Homecoming Home

By Cynthia Voigt

Home

The children could look back and see their own car, green and lonely, in the middle of the parking lot.

It was kind of like a home, the car, Dicey thought. She understood why Sammy wanted to stay there. (1.2.53-54)

Car sweet car… It makes sense that Dicey would see the car as a kind of home. After all, it was the last place they were with Momma.

"Yeah, but our house was out in the dunes. We had the ocean. Our house was nicer than the ones other people wanted."

"The bathtub was in the kitchen," James reminded her. "It was small, even smaller than these houses."

"So what?"

"Nobody else would have lived in it. Only us. Some of the kids said their parents thought it should be torn down."

"What do I care what people say?" Dicey asked.

"They called it a shack," James went on.

"I liked it," Dicey said. "The ocean's better than fancy bathrooms, any day." (1.2.88-94)

Home is what you make of it. It doesn't matter that the house they lived in with Momma was run down, Dicey loves it and thinks it was a happy place. Plus, it had the ocean.

Dicey looked at the gravestones about her. She read an inscription: <em>Home is the hunter, home from the hill, and the sailor home from the sea. </em>

What a thing to put on a grave.

As if to say that being dead was home. Home, for Dicey, was their house in Provincetown, where the wind made the boards creak in a way that was almost music. Or Aunt Cilla's big white house that faced over the water, the one she had dreamed about. Being dead wasn't going home, was it? Unless—and she remembered what James had been saying last night—home was the place where you finally stayed, forever and ever. Then this person was home, and nobody would be truly home until he, or she, died. It was an awful thought […].

If you took home to mean where you rested content and never wanted to go anywhere else, then Dicey had never had a home. The ocean always made her restless; so even Provincetown, even their own remembered kitchen, wasn't home. That was why Dicey always ran along the sand beside the ocean, as if she had to race the waves. The ocean wasn't home, then, and neither was anyplace else. Nobody could be home, really, until he was in his grave. Nobody could rest, really, until then. It was a cold, hard thought written on that cold, hard stone. But maybe true.

If Dicey died, she guessed she wouldn't mind having this poem on her tombstone, now that she thought about it. She was the hunter and the sailor, and she guessed dead people did lie quietly in their graves. (1.7.7-9, 12-13)

That is quite a thing to put on a grave. The quote is from the Robert Louis Stevenson poem, "Requiem." It's all about a person resting peacefully in death. Maybe Dicey is right—the grave is the only home.

"I thought so. The Tillerman home—it must have been unhappy. Do you know what that can mean?"

"I think so," Dicey said. "I mean, we were happy. We were—whether you believe it or not . . . "

"Oddly enough, I do believe it."

Dicey smiled at him. "You see, there were kids at school—they hated their parents or they hated other people so much that you knew—it wasn't just being angry, it was hating. I can't explain what I mean, but I could feel the unhappiness." (1.11.39-42)

Sure, home life might have been weird (what with a mentally ill mother), but the Tillermans were never unhappy there. That's why finding a home to them is about so much more than a house—it's about a place where they can be happy again.

"I think, if we can get to New York without being caught—we'll be home free."

Home, Dicey thought. She remembered the inscription on the tombstone: <em>Home is the sailor, home is the hunter.</em> Until she died, Dicey wouldn't expect any place to be home. Home was with Momma—and Momma was in a hospital where the doctors said she'd always stay. There could be no home for the Tillermans. Home free—Dicey would settle for a place to stay. Stay free.

Cousin Eunice's house wasn't free; it was expensive. The price was always remembering to be grateful. And there was danger to Sammy and Maybeth, of being sent to foster homes or special schools; danger to Dicey and James of forgetting and saying what they thought before wondering if it would sound ungrateful.

Dicey had lowered her sights. She no longer hoped for a home. Now she wanted only a place where the Tillermans could be themselves and do what was good for them. Home was out of the question. Stay might be possible, if this grandmother could be persuaded. (2.1.6-9)

Oh, this is sad. The kids can never be back home in that happy place with Momma. So what can they do now? Dicey doesn't need to recreate that home anymore. She just needs a place where they can stay and be themselves and not worry about being separated from each other.

It would be something to live in a circus, Dicey thought, always moving around, always heading for somewhere new. If it was Dicey's circus, she would go everywhere. She planned it out to herself, alone in Claire's trailer at night, with the noise from the fairgrounds behind her. First, all around the United States, then up to Canada and down to Mexico. She would make her circus get famous and get jobs in Europe, and maybe even China or Japan. They'd have trailers for land travel and a ship of their own for sea travel. She would have real lions. (2.6.228)

The circus would be a pretty kick butt home, but Dicey realizes that this isn't really practical—the kids have to go to school, after all. But a homeless girl can dream, can't she?

The house was before them, overgrown with honeysuckle, dark-windowed, looking abandoned. Off to the right, Dicey saw the lopsided barn. It had once been red, but the paint had weathered, faded and peeled, until it looked pink as a bad sunburn. The tin roof was rusted in large patches.

"Anyway," Dicey said, "this is where Momma lived."

"It's beautiful," Maybeth said.

"It's a wreck," Dicey answered. "The fields out front—and look at that barn. It's gone to ruin. She hasn't taken care of it."

"But it's big," James said. "Big enough for all of us." (2.8.107-111)

Yeah, Abigail's house looks pretty terrible, but the kids see the potential. Now if they could just do something about this honeysuckle…

"You are in my home," their grandmother said. She looked around the table at the four pairs of hazel eyes, none as dark as hers. And none, except Dicey's, as angry as hers. "My home, not yours," their grandmother said.

We might as well have it out now as any other time, Dicey said to herself. She felt as if she had been running away from this for days, and she had only the last of her strength left. She had to turn and fight now. She took a deep, shivering breath.

"Are you expecting us to stay then?" she demanded. Her voice sounded thin and hard.

Her grandmother's mouth worked, and she looked surprised, as if she hadn't understood what it was they were fighting about this time. Her mouth formed words, but no sound came out. Finally she spoke:

"No." (2.10.118-122)

Oh, man—this is stone cold. Their grandmother gives them the old "you're in my house, you'll follow my rules" line and then tells them they can't stay anyhow. Will these kids ever find a home of their own?

Dicey belonged here. She belonged here; yet she was being blown away. Well, it wasn't her house, that was true. It was their grandmother's house and they were not welcome. They would stay together, at least that. She could go along with Cousin Eunice on everything except about that; she wouldn't agree to sending Sammy or Maybeth away. She'd say that right away. (2.11.8)

This is super sad. Even though Abigail's house doesn't belong to them, the kids feel a connection to it. Maybe it's because their Momma grew up there. Whatever it is, Dicey is pretty bummed to be pushed out and heading back to Cousin Eunice's.

"Well, you should," Dicey said fiercely. "You should let us live with you."

That was no way to ask.

"Would that suit you?" Gram asked Dicey.

Dicey was shocked into silence.

"I thought you were the one it didn't suit," James said.

"Well, it doesn't," Gram said. "But it will. I give up. I do, I give up. You've worn me out. You can stay, you can live with me." (2.12.145-150)

Yay—home at last. Abigail finally gives into what she's felt all along: She wants the kids to stay, she wants to give them a home. Let's head there now, shall we?

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