As I sit in my favourite room in the house, in relative silence, as for once I’m the only one at home; I look around and I can see the memories of all that has happened in this room….
This time last year, we were fixing up the old house and I had started decluttering in preparation for selling the old girl and downsizing…. Well they say that life is the thing that happens when you are busy making plans.. The world has changed, and we’ve decided to stay put for a while. I am still decluttering – it has been almost cathartic – and we are still working on brightening her up; but for now, we will hunker down here and ride out the storm that circulates the world…
But it has got me to thinking about this old house, and what has made her a Home. And what that very feeling “Home” is all about.
This room, The Family room; is an extension of our kitchen. It emerged from a massive re-shuffle of rooms we did 19 years ago. Its on the site of the original, fully internal, kitchen and a smaller “Sunroom”- an old, enclosed porch. We moved the kitchen to a bedroom next door; opened a hatch between the 2, and this room was born.
As a room, architecturally speaking, it is a bit of a hodge podge. There is absolutely nothing symmetrical about this space; Taking into an account a beam that couldn’t be moved; a lean to roof, and the fact the old sunroom was not as wide as the old kitchen; we have been left with a very quirky room… that I adore… Painted a very bright green; this room, of all the house, expresses my personality the most…
And as an extension of the kitchen it has been the site of dinners; parties; dancing; games; art; school homework; afternoon teas; my son’s Paper and Pen (paper based fantasy role play); birthday cakes; Christmas Dinners; Halloween parties… A quiet reading place… And in Summer, its where you’ll find my Mum, when she comes to visit. It really is the heart of our house, and therefore the heart of our home…
Which makes me wonder. When does a house revert from 4 walls and a roof to a Home? What magic has to happen? We all know when we’ve visited someone’s new place, and oohed and aahed over the view or the fittings; the flash kitchen or the state of the art bathroom… or indeed sympathised over how much work needs to be done, and agreed it has “good bones and potential”; but at that stage it still feels like a building, a collection of rooms and possessions… A house needs a bit of living in before it becomes a home. An injection of the owner’s personality. But even that is not the answer. I’ve visited some houses, that even after years of occupancy still feel like show homes; you still perch on the edge of your seat and watch for crumbs. That’s not to say that all the houseproud people I know, only own houses rather than Homes; but you know the feeling..
And it is a feeling… We use words like warm, welcoming, cosy, safe, comfortable, restful, peaceful… that feeling of being wrapped up and hugged… Homes are places where all those feelings exist. Sometimes it’s the décor, but that’s really only an extension of the people who live there… And its people that make a place a home. This old girl has seen people come and go; there is a patina of memories to be found here amongst the dents in the walls from too boisterous a boy; some “art” indelibly drawn with a marker pen by a toddler; photos of long since departed family and friends; scratches on the floor from that broken chair… In the quiet I can almost hear the conversations and I can definitely hear the laughter… And if I can squint, I can imagine the squidgy toddler running around, warm, and naked after their bath..
I am a Home-maker in the 1950s way. I was lucky enough to be able to follow my yen to be a stay at home Mum. All that domesticity was my calling. And I included not just my kids, but their friends in that plan. And this old girl has also housed many people “in between” other bits of their lives. I follow the Polish tradition of always having room at the table for 1 more person. And her generous proportions mean we can always find a place to sleep for that stray traveller.. And to me that is part of Home, that feeling that you are always welcome, that there is a place for you…
And that brings me to that other definition of Home – when we aren’t talking of a building; but those times in life when we realise we are in the place that we feel most comfortable. I was in a Zoom meeting this morning with a very divergent group of people; and I realised as I scanned their now familiar faces; that I was Home. That this group accepted me for, well me. We share some very personal battles and histories, and there is always a blanket acceptance. No judgement, no shaming, just acceptance and support. Sometimes Home is just that – just finding people who get you; know your past and accept you for the person you stand before them. You find the same comfort, same warmth as you do when you enter a place you call Home… its that feeling of taking off your shoes and flopping down in a comfy chair…
I feel for people whose childhood houses were not Homes; where they were not safe, not accepted. Some spend their entire lives searching for that feeling. These are the people, for whom Life is just hard. They are often the ones whose lives don’t have boundaries; who find themselves in endless trouble; who turn to drugs or alcohol to numb it all; who drift from chaotic episode to chaotic episode. Its those people who need us to be Home for them more than anything. We can’t fix their pasts, but with love and tolerance, we can help them heal… And isn’t that what Home is? A safe place: where we can just sit, heal, and grow?
So, wherever you are reading this in the world.. .I hope you are Home…
“The Ache for Home lives in all of Us.
The safe place where we can go as we are, and not be questioned”
4 thoughts on “4 Walls and a Roof”
Chris, that was a beautiful read. It always makes me feel warm inside when people tell me my house feels like “a home” and it reassures me, as we are about to move, that the house is not pivotal to that – it’s how people are welcomed and accepted. I had the privilege to be at that Zoom meeting with you and I also feel like I’ve come home when I’m with that group of people. You’re a huge part of what makes that group so wonderful. Thank you for sharing this piece of writing, it has helped me today. x
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I am sure making a Home is part of your DNA Matt, your input is certainly what has n
Made this group feel like home for all of us… it has been so cool to see our friends bloom with each meeting 💕
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Another thought provoking read, Chris. And so timely too. I opened my eyes this morning to get out of bed, located my jandals under my bedside chair and felt like the room was saying “good morning” to me. I have been reflecting a lot recently about how lucky I am that, after less than 3 years, this new-to-us house already feels like home. After reading this, I realise that part of that is that it gave me room to just sit, heal, and grow when I needed to. Part of it is that, however much I loved the fancy architect-designed that we left to come here (where, like you, I grew my family, hosted many, many visitors and parties, and shed many tears), I feel like this house actually expresses my own personality more. And part of it is the “patina of memories” that is already settling into its bones. I used to tell people who came to see us or stay with us that each visit felt like a blessing on the house. I still feel that way, and feel oh so incredibly lucky that here in Aotearoa we’ve been able to have a summer of visitors, each adding their own blessings and special memories. I also feel lucky that I have a number of second homes around the county, places where I arrive and feel their arms wrap around me. Your old warmly welcoming girl being one of them! We’ve always thought of you as the hostess with the mostest, and what I see in this lovely piece of writing, is not just your appreciation of your physical home and your online group, but also the wonderful gifts you have that have made so many people feel like your space is a home for them too. Very special indeed!.