February 21, 2008

Home

One of the greatest blessings in my life is that I had a very happy, secure childhood. My parents were happily married and worked hard to provide a loving, nurturing environment for my brother and me. In my heart and memory that warm, stable environment is inextricably linked to the house we lived in when I was young. I lived in the same house from birth until I left for college. It was my home so completely that I wasn’t even aware of how emotionally significant a home can be until the day, during my senior year of high school, when my father sat us down and explained that we needed to sell the house.

It was the early 90’s. The recession had been dragging on for quite a while. While it was an extraordinarily beautiful house, it was quite large and very old. My father had owned the house outright since before I was born, but the maintenance and taxes on the house were very expensive. Not only that, but I’m the youngest and I was to be leaving for college soon. The house was way more than my about-to-be empty-nester parents would need. In the coming years, my dad’s health would begin to decline rapidly. He didn’t say it (and I didn’t suspect it), but I think he knew that soon he simply wouldn’t be able to manage living in a house of that size and that more money would be needed for medical expenses. On that day he simply laid it out as a sensible, financial decision. He recognized how hard it would be for all of us to leave (he’d been living there for more than 30 years, himself) but explained that it was the wisest thing to do, given the state of the economy.

It was one of those life events when your perspective changes in an instant. The house represented all the stability and security I had had in my life so far. I realize how lucky I am to have been 18 and seeing for the first time that up until then I had had the luxury of taking that stability and security for granted. But at the time all I could feel was the loss. The idea of selling the house made me feel adrift, confused and very sad. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I felt emotionally homeless.

Over the next 10 years, I lived in a series of dorm rooms and rentals. I had roommates, my own apartment and then the apartments I shared with Chris before we were married. I visited my parents in their new house, sometimes staying for months at a time. All those places were perfectly nice, but none of them encompassed that feeling of Home the way the old house had. I was the right age to be leaving home, which helped me make peace with the sale of the old house. But I never lost my fondness for that house and what it represented. And I never forgot how I’d felt like everything I had ever relied upon might slip away if that house was no longer my family homestead.

Two months after we were married, Chris and I moved into the house we have just sold. (We actually made the winning offer on the house on an evening we were having a meeting with our wedding planner and DJ, but that’s another story.) We have lived there for the past four years. Somewhere along the way, I regained that feeling of Home and it was wonderful.

The process of selling that house and moving into a new one has made a lot of old feelings resurface. This time, though, I’m not a na├»ve teenager. Instead, I’m a reasonably well adjusted adult who knows that while a house can be a big part of one’s identity and is the place one might call “home,” it’s the bigger principles of love, security, peacefulness and family that really define Home.

Two days before the close of escrow, Chris and I had our final walk-through at our old house. It was completely empty, save for the alarmingly huge dust bunnies and the mysterious bottle of Miller Light that was there when we moved in. (Leaving it there just seemed like the right thing to do.) I allowed myself to cry and mourn leaving the place where I had once again felt so loved and secure that I could truly feel at Home.

We left there for the last time and came to our new house. We still have many unpacked boxes, there are still areas of the house under construction, the furniture for our bedroom and the nursery has not yet arrived, but this house is shaping up very nicely. I’ve been having a blast picking paint colors, light fixtures, window treatments, etc. We’re putting our own personal stamp on this house and it feels fantastic. I love that everywhere I look, I see my life with my husband. And when I think about bringing our baby daughter home from the hospital to this house, I feel overjoyed. This house is the beginning of our next series of adventures as our family expands. We are filling this house with love and making it a Home.

When we were standing in our old house on that final day, Chris and I talked about the things I’ve said here. We let ourselves feel the sadness of leaving that house and then we hugged and reminded each other of a certain part of our wedding vows. It was the thing that made it easy for me to wipe away my tears. It’s the thing that has made this transition one of joy. On our wedding day, we said to each other, “May my heart be your shelter and my arms be your home.”