Coming Home: A Writing Prompt

I start today with these lines from Robert Frost’s narrative poem, “The Death of the Hired Man”:

Home is the place where, when you have to go there,

They have to take you in.

We know this isn’t always true. Families turn their own away all the time, and sometimes for good reason. In a perfect world, though, it should be true because we all need a place we call home particularly in times of trouble.

I think of all the homes I’ve had and all the pleasure I’ve taken from simply walking through the door. When I was young, I loved coming home after school and putting on a pair of faded jeans and a sweatshirt or t-shirt depending on the season. In high school, I loved coming home in the late afternoon and having the house to myself, both of my parents at work. I remember winter evenings standing at our side window, my eyes on the sidewalk, waiting to see my aging father walking home from uptown. We’d learned to become friends at that point. He’d survived a first heart attack, but I feared our remaining time together would be short, so I loved knowing he was home and he was safe. Now, I love coming home to my wife, Cathy, and our cats, Stella and Stanley.

I could go on reminiscing, but that would only be nostalgia. To make a narrative memorable, we need something out of the ordinary. Someone comes home to find something unexpected. Maybe it’s good news, or maybe it’s not. Something or someone arrives that demands our attention. Whatever or whoever it is, it affects not only the protagonist, whether in fiction or in nonfiction, but also other family members, the ones who are supposed to take you in.

So, here’s your writing prompt: Coming Home. Treat it however you like and in whatever form suits you. Maybe you’re the one who’s coming home; maybe it’s a character you’ve created. Whatever the case may be, see how you can use the homecoming to create a narrative of consequence. What trouble does the prodigal carry with them, or what trouble to they create? To look at it another way, what joy do they bring? How does it go wrong? Any story of paradise only becomes interesting once trouble arrives.

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