I’ve been thinking about the concept of ‘home’ for a while now. What is it that give our spaces that feeling that makes us feel good being there. It isn’t uncommon for an apartment to feel distinctly not homey, particularly ones first apartment after leaving the house where parents and siblings still reside. It makes tempting the idea that it is the people that make for a feeling of ‘home.’ But it seems equally common for an apartment to feel like the place where that person will spend the rest of their life. And that happens to folks who live alone. So, is it the people at all?
I love being with my family. There was always something about returning for a visit to my childhood home that had a fantastic mix of nostalgia, comfort, and distance. In 2005, I moved far enough away that visiting required planning and money; my visits to my hometown were reduced to about once every two years. By my first visit, my parents had sold my childhood home and moved to the country into a brand new manufactured home while they planned out their dream home. There was no way, I thought, to feel at home in a mobile home sat in the trees just outside of town.
I was wrong. While it wasn’t the same, the feeling was. I was in a house that had only even existed for about a year, but it was filled with familiar furniture and my parents. For me, that ruled out the structure and the location. What seemed to be at play was the combination of the people, the memories I carried with me, and the stuff in the house. Had my parents simultaneously discovered their mutual love for Victorian furnishings, throwing out the carefully cultivated collection of things in the house, I think the space would have felt as cold as I expected it to. These objects brought with them the stories that define us as a family.
“I always want objects in my home that have a connection to me or something I’ve loved. It’s still stuff, but it’s stuff that has meaning.” Nate Berkus makes a great point, and one I’d like to explore in depth for myself. When I had one of those cold apartments, just out of high school, it was filled with items I can barely remember, mass produced and cheap things. The only items I even clearly recall are items that had a story, even if the item wasn’t old. The dresser my dad painted for me for my new place, the sofa he reupholstered, and that is about it. It would take me years to collect items of meaning, to be given things once belonging to grandparents and parents, and to have the maturity to honor those things and treat them with the respect they had earned.
Six months ago, I moved into the mobile home where my parents spent years hoping to build their dream home. They settled into their new house over the summer, leaving vacant a space that had surprised me, on a land that is peaceful and beautiful. I’m honored to live here in this space that has become a part of the story, where my nephews spent so much of their childhood, where birthdays were celebrated, where holidays with family were enjoyed, and where my parents lived and loved and convalesced.
Many of the stories are lost; it had been incumbent on me to ask the necessary questions and carry on the mythologies and lessons of my family, but I have failed to do so. But I’d still like to explore what meanings these artifacts have for my life, for the lives of my family members, to recall the world in which they came to us and present them to the world.
This is the first entry in a series about my things.