What memories, feelings or images come to mind when you hear the word “home”? Home. For some, the word may evoke a sense of warmth, belonging or satisfaction. More than four walls, brick and mortar, and a place to hold your things, it’s where we spend our lives.
It’s truly like the old saying, “home is where you hang your heart.” As our homes are an outward reflection of our inner selves, our concept of home, and how that manifests, is bound to change and evolve as we go through each new stage of life.
As a young, single person just entering true adulthood, striking out on my own for the first time, the unfamiliarity of my new independence could be represented by the amount of keys I suddenly owned: a car key, apartment key, mailbox key, a work key. I found their small weight in my pocket wonderfully astounding and oddly exhilarating.
In my fresh optimism of embarking on domesticity, I was convinced that what turned a living space into a home was a list of must-have decor and “homey” touches: art on the walls, colour-coordinated throw pillows, couch throws, living things such as plants and a fish in a small bowl, as well as a water fountain and decorative candles.
I enthusiastically proceeded to fill my humble apartment with all the above and was proud of the affect. I thought it was home. For a time, it was, but it was lonely; somehow hollow. All the comforting things didn’t fill the silence or the empty hours.
Fast forward a few years and “home” has shifted again. Now it’s about finding a place for tools that seem to always be lying around, unearthing smelly socks wedged into the couch, trying to get baby food stains out of the rug, a crib that is the centre of our universe, a countertop dishwasher that only runs so-so, baby bottles turning up in the strangest of places, and hearing every sound from our too-close neighbours.
“Home” is soon filled with the delightful giggles of a toddler who’s discovered his feet and is full of it, half-eaten apples squirreled away in secret nooks and crannies, mascara streaks on the cabinets from “play time” in mom’s makeup, and stepping on dinosaurs, trains and teddies strewn across the playroom floor, as his favourite game is dumping out every bin and refusing to clean up.
A bit more time goes by and “home” once again is filled with the cries of an all-encompassing, demanding newborn and the cycle begins again. The dream for a different kind of home begins, with the longing for a yard, to touch green and growing things and fill little lungs with fresh air and cover little hands and cheeks with a healthy amount of dirt while searching for bugs and picking dandelions. Space to breath, room to grow; a home that’s truly our own.
The process towards home ownership was its own odyssey and we have more “home” now than we ever imagined we could: more love, more fun, more joy, more mess, than we ever dared hope for. Another baby boy, more pets than I care to recount, bikes on the driveway and sleds in the backyard, Saturday night hot dog roasts over the fire pit, unending piles of dirty laundry belonging to my favourite little humans, dripping toys left in the bathtub, and Lego forever underfoot.
My younger self might be appalled to witness the scene. I’ve largely given up on houseplants as they always die on me. Throw pillows are just pilfered to make forts and have become a relic of the past. There are no dainty water features. My goodness.
While there’s sometimes heated words and a wish for pristine walls and mirrors without sticky finger marks, there is laughter, security, comfort and love. Our home is lived in, and it shows, but it’s ours.
Home isn’t always just one place and — sometimes — isn’t a place at all.
One of the keys I own is to my parents’ house, and as the years pass, that place, where they are, continues to pull me and bring me home. I find home in their embrace, just as I find home as I hold my children.
“Home” is wherever you feel you most belong, where you’re cared for, safe and comfortable and where you find purpose. As a new year begins, I wish you all a greater sense of home, security and peace, wherever, or with whomever, that may be.