The word “home” can have so many different meanings at various times in your life. A childhood home evokes different feelings than your first young-married home. A retirement home is different from a vacation home. All bring about a variety of emotions, memories and feelings.
But one thing is for sure. A house isn't necessarily a home. A real estate agent says he’s showing a “house” to a potential buyer, but that person will probably say he’s buying a “home.” The saying goes “home is where the heart is” not “house is where the heart is.”
A house becomes a home when its walls get covered with photos, its closets bulge with familiar items and stuff you can’t bear to part with, there are stacks of magazines around your favorite chair, and fuzz bunnies from the much loved dog thrive under the furniture.
Relative to most people my age, I lived in only a few houses growing up. My parents built their first house when I was a toddler, and I lived there until second grade. We lived in a rental for a few months after returning from a 2-year stint in Virginia before my parents built the house I consider my childhood home. We moved there when I was in the fourth grade. Just about all the vivid memories I have of my growing up years are associated with that house.
The Williamsburg Christmas lights in the windows every year; first-day-of-school pictures in front of the fireplace; plays and beauty pageants in the downstairs playroom; the cool window seat in my bedroom where I wrote in in my diary believing that spot gave me “inspiration;” the shelves that held my Mrs. Beasley and my Mme Alexander doll collection; photos with the cousins on the den sofa; the neat-as-pin attic that held boxes of photos, letters and grade school papers; the detail of the house's facacde that exactly mirrors a house my mother loved in historic Williamsburg Virginia….the list of what I love and want to remember about that house could go on forever.
It’s funny to think that I only lived there for eight years before I headed to college. That’s just a couple of blinks in my 53 years. When I moved to a dorm and then an apartment in college, my childhood home became more of a way-stop. Once I moved to DC and had my own apartments, more of my belongings went back with me every time I visited Columbia.
Once my childhood room was redecorated into the guest room, I started gradually thinking of my childhood home as “my parents’ house.” I'm not sure exactly when that happened, but eventually that house became a place to visit rather than live. Although I will admit I still have a house key, come and go as I please, and walk in without knocking. I still know where the forks go in the drawer, how to find a pair of scissors and where my mother hides her favorite nail file.
But now, after 44 years in that house, my parents are moving. The house sold quickly to the first family that looked at it. I know they will pick up the good karma of my family’s many happy times there. My childhood home will become someone else’s home.
Every house has its time to be a home. My home now is where I have lived for 20+ years. The sale of my childhood home doesn’t mean the memories, photos, old friends and great neighbors will go away. I’m lucky to have them tucked into a place in my heart that will always be with me.
But, in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit to tucking some of those memories into several plastic bins containing old photos, letters, term papers, report cards and articles that I couldn't bear to throw away….maybe later, but not yet.