Home in Wilmington for the Holidays

“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home!”

Holiday lighted display in a Wilmington neighborhood

It struck me earlier this month that this would be the first year that neither myself nor my wife, Ella, would be home for the holidays—at least in the traditional sense of the word. We grew up in the midwest, where both our families still reside. Our experience here, though, has impacted how we define home. 

After moving to Delaware through Teach For America in 2015, I signed a lease on an apartment in Wilmington; I started teaching 9th grade science at Howard High School of Technology, HHST (go Wildcats!). A few months later Ella and I got married, and she, too, moved to Delaware. She was hired as a nurse at Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children.

Many of the students I haven’t taught at school know me as that “crazy teacher who rides a bike to work every day.” We live about a half of a mile from Howard. I bike by the Brandywine River, the Hercules Building, the Urban Bike Project, and through the neighborhoods where many of my students live. I’m conscious that I am a visitor on the streets where my students have called home for over a decade. I’ve come to know that route by heart.

Over the past two and a half years, I’ve started putting faces to the places I pass and my perspective as I bike has changed. The pot-holed section of the street is right outside Michael’s house, my student who has struggled with the transition to high school. That part of the street without streetlights makes me think of my neighbors who often go for walks in the evening. And the oddly-angled one-way sign is right outside the Urban Bike Project, where I helped facilitate an after-school bike club this past spring.

LOMA Coffee in downtown Wilmington

The Hercules Building nearby? That is where I took my graduate school classes. LOMA Coffee? That’s where my wife worked for a season when we moved to Wilmington, and where my church runs ministries. That apartment on West Street? That’s where my church group meets every week. And that middle school I pass along the way to Howard? That’s where my fellow TFA corps members are teaching and serving the students who might one day find themselves in my classroom.

This year, my wife worked 12-hour shifts on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at the hospital. So we stuck around Wilmington for the holidays. Somehow, though, it doesn’t feel like we’re not home.

Is home where the heart is? Then, yes, maybe home for us is where our families are. But if home is where the heart is, then surely there’s more than one place. We’ve found our hearts have come to live in the places that we have invested. As we’ve invested in this community, and as we’ve felt this community in Wilmington embrace us through the people that we’ve had the privilege to know, we’ve found our hearts knit to this place and these people. This year we’re spending the holidays at “home.”


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About the Contributor

John Filcik

John Filcik

John Filcik was a 2015 Teach for America Delaware corps member and is a science teacher at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington. Born and raised in Holland, Michigan, Filcik recently earned a Master's Degree from Relay Graduate School of Education. He and his wife Ella have been married for almost two years and recently adopted a labradoodle named Melvin.

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