Home is Where Your Heart Opens

my Dad in PHL control tower, 1969

my Dad (on phone) in PHL control tower, 1969

Home is not just a physical place – where you hang your hat or cook a meal. Not just where years of love and relationships have built a place that glows with warmth. A recent experience in an airport showed me that even on a plane full of strangers, I can feel fully at home.

My Dad was an air traffic controller at Philadelphia International Airport from the late 1950’s to mid 1970’s. Once in a while he brought me to work, where the guys would greet me as Frank Junior, probably knowing that was not my name. My most memorable visits were at night, as my Dad wanted to “to show me the lights” from the control tower. All the runways and taxiways were rimmed with colored lights for visibility, and their lines reminded me of Christmas tree lights. Blues and greens, and of course red. I suppose he held a sense of wonder even during his midnight-to-eight shift, for he himself lit up as he talked about taking me there.

Sitting on a plane in 2013, looking out the tiny window at the abandoned old control tower at PHL, I felt a rush of warmth and sense of belonging. My heart was simultaneously open to the past and present, and I felt the oneness only felt at home.  Now that Dad is long retired and with his eyesight fading, he stills lights up with curiosity and appreciation, a beacon to all of us on our daily journeys.


Blaise Kielar received Honorable Mention in the 2022 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize for an excerpt from his memoir in progress, "Be Heard: The Quiet Kid Who Started the World’s Loudest Violin Shop." He opened Chapel Hill’s first violin shop in 1978 and retired from a music retail career by transitioning Electric Violin Shop into the first worker-owned co-op music store in the United States. He plays jazz violin and clarinet in several bands and leads the Bulltown Strutters, Durham’s community New Orleans brass band.