“The known smells, sounds, sights, and feel of home let our brains relax and rejuvenate. It's a key part of why 'There's no place like home.'” When I saw this tweet from Amelia Franck Meyer (@alfranckmeyer), can you guess the first thing that came to mind?
If you know me, you know my mind went to the smell of food. My very first thought was of the smell of bacon as I walk into Palmetto Place in the morning. Ms. Matilda and Ms. LaConte cook some great breakfasts and the bacon smell is a great way to start the morning.
Amelia knows what she’s talking about – she knows kids and she knows kids who’ve experienced trauma. She’s the CEO of Anu Family Services in Wisconsin and Minnesota and a guru at well-being for kids and taking care of kids who are in out-of-home care, just like our kids. When she speaks, I listen, because what she says is important and crucial for the right care of kids who’ve experienced trauma.
So, let’s talk about the five senses of home.
Bacon in the mornings! And laundry - the almost nonstop smell of laundry. I love that clean smell!
I can mark the time in the afternoons by the sound of the kids on the basketball court. It means they’re home from school. It means I get to take a work break and go play for a few minutes and see how the day was at school. It’s 15 minutes that I can connect with kids as they unwind. I will always remember one particular middle schooler who started playing at exactly 3:45 every day all by himself. It was his way to relax and think through the day. I learned a lot from him.
Endless smiles. That’s what comes to mind. We have smiles in the mornings before school! Okay, truth – that’s mostly elementary school kids. Middle schoolers, well, they’re a little grumpy. High schoolers, they’re so independent that they’re just out the door. If you have kids, you know!
There’s a lot to see at Palmetto Place. There are older kids helping younger kids, houseparents and volunteers helping kids with homework or playing games or reading. To walk through the house on any given afternoon is a treat. It is a house buzzing with activity. It is kids being kids.
Ask the kids and they will tell you their favorite foods! Ms. Gloria’s spaghetti, Ms. Jenny’s baked chicken, Ms. Betty’s shrimp fried rice, Ms. Jill’s Christmas Eve dinner and on and on and on. Ask kids and adults who once lived at Palmetto Place and they’ll have their own memories of food they loved.
A wise friend taught me something very smart years ago. Hugs, high fives and handshakes. As her kids enter her classroom each morning, they get to choose one. I borrowed this from her – that’s the highest form of flattery, right?
Hugs, high fives and handshakes are what all kids need, but especially kids who’ve experienced trauma, abuse, neglect. I’m a big fan of a hug. I hug every kid who wants a hug. New kids who’ve just arrived at Palmetto Place are understandably standoffish at first. Who is this woman and these other adults and all these kids who want to be my friend? Who can I trust? And after a day or so, after they’ve seen other kids give hugs, then they want in on the hugs and the high fives! That first hug is always a little hesitant. But then it becomes a giant group hug.
Touch. It’s how kids learn to connect with others. It’s a part of learning to trust. It’s a part of accepting love.
Since it’s the first week of school, there are other parts of the sense of touch on my mind too. The feel of those brand new shoes. Carrying a brand new backpack to school. Writing with a newly sharpened pencil on that smooth new composition notebook. Everyone's new haircuts! Thank you InnerSole, FiA Midlands, AFLAC, TD Bank and many others for providing shoes, school supplies and much more!)
Do you see a pattern? All of these memories through senses – they are the feel of home. And there’s no place like home. When home isn’t a safe place, there is Palmetto Place.
~ Erin Hall, Executive Director