“Home is where somebody notices when you are no longer there” -Aleksandar Hemon
There are endless cheesy quotes about home… “Home is where the heart is”… “Home isn’t a place it’s a feeling”. And everyone clings on to the age-old idea that : a house is not a home. Home used to be a basic concept to me, it’s the four walls where my family is, where I go home to. I grew up in a modest house, a 4 bedroom rancher on a charming street. My mother stayed home to take care of us 3 children and my father spent his days working to provide for us. There was never a lack of love and support. We created a special home. Whenever I was away too long, went to camp, even on vacation, I would become homesick. The house became a key factor in our family’s ability to create a home. The space was important. We used it to reinforce the feeling of safety and comfort. I feel like this dynamic is still the blueprint for most families. Even though the house doesn’t make the home, it does facilitate and cradle the idea of home. You have four walls that contain your home. Even when I left for college I still thought about my home. Living on campus and in dorms never gave me the same sense of safety. By time I was done with college we had lost my childhood house that I had grown up in. The housing market crash effected us the same way it did millions of others. Now when I “moved back home” from school, I didn’t feel at home. The house we were in at the time was just a house, but I did feel at home in my community. My concept of home was already evolving without me even realizing it. My brother and sister had moved on to create their own families. The house that my mother had moved in to, where I was, felt empty. I still had my own room, I was still surrounded by my things, and I felt familiarity in that environment… but it never felt like home. After being there for a short time, I moved in with my boyfriend. We created a home together. It’s amazing how quickly that space became everything I ever wanted in a home. It was not that great of a house. But my love for him and my belief in our future gave me such a warm safe feeling that home became a bubble surrounding us. It was during this time that I first realized that a person could be your home. Anywhere I went with him I still felt a sense of home. Whenever he was away I felt homesick without leaving the house. You’re taking a true leap of faith and putting all of your eggs in one basket when you let a person become your home. When we broke up I never once missed that house. I mourned for the loss of my home, the person who was in himself, my safe place. A memorable quote that is often cited and that I always remembered says “I am homesick for a place that doesn’t exist” (Garden State). That is how I felt. I always thought those words were referring to the fact that he doesn’t have a house, a place, that feels like a home. Looking back at those words, and experiencing the same feeling, that place doesn’t exist because it physically can’t. Without a person to go home to, there can’t be a home. The place can never exist if you don’t have someone who creates it with you and for you. Once I lost my home in that relationship, my sister, mother, and I found a house to rent together. All of us were homeless. We each had a roof over our heads but none of us had the comfort of home. Combining our finances we were able to afford rent on what is still the largest house I’ve ever lived in. It was a 3,000 sqft house with 6 bedrooms- it was beautiful. Our first night there I knew that I was home. I don’t think I ever appreciated how much my sister and mother meant in my heart until I went from not having them round, to being with them under the same roof. Sleeping, just feeling them close, made me feel more at peace and comforted than I ever remember feeling. We could have moved into a one bedroom shack and I would have felt exactly the same. Creating a beautiful space around us was just a perk. I mean, we were three trendy ladies with a keen sense of design. Enjoying the space and being proud of our house fostered an environment of inspiration and joy. But if that house were to tragically burn down I would have held on to my mother and sister and still known that I have a home. It was their presence that I gravitated to whenever I said ‘I need to go home’, I never cared about or missed the house. We were privileged to share that space with each other for about a year a half. When I look back on my life that is, and always will be, the best experience I ever had, the most special time I ever enjoyed. I got to a point where I wanted my own place, I had never lived alone. Looking back I feel naive that I would have ever wanted that when given a choice. If I had the wisdom then that I have now about what makes a home, I would have elected to stay there as long as possible. Instead, I got my own apartment. I meticulously picked out things to set it up just right. I filled it with things catered to my needs and my taste. I had everything I could want and it was beautiful. But it never felt like home. It was during this time that I realized I can’t just create a home by ordering the best sheets money can buy. I may have the coolest kitchen gadgets on the market, but they never brought me comfort. When you live in a space alone you will always be missing that puzzle piece that turns a house into a home. When I traveled or went on vacation, I never once felt homesick for my apartment. My mother and sister moved into a different place together and I would find myself feeling homesick for their apartment. Not a single thing of mine was there and I had no attachment to that space, but my home was still there, because they were there. When my mom died I lost all semblance of home. It happened- I became homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. No matter where I went I never felt the warmth of home. Losing such a part of your life, your mother- your home- it changes how you think about everything. My apartment became a place that I resented because I didn’t feel like it could ever be my home. Being in the space made me painfully aware of what was missing in my life. My mother has been gone for one year and I have never gone back to my apartment in that time. I felt so lost that I ended up going in search of a new different home. Knowing that your foundation for the past 30 years has crumbled and cannot be rebuilt feels completely hopeless. I reconnected with an old friend as I was trying to deal with my grief. In what seems like dark fate, she had also just lost her mother. We started talking every day and spending time together. I would stay with her for weeks at a time. As we got closer I started to feel comfort, safety, and joy just by being around her. My home with my mother can never be replaced, but I was starting to build a new home, a different home. Time away from my friend started to make me feel homesick. Even being homesick became a hopeful feeling because it meant there was a place in my life worthy of being called home… it’s with her. Whether I’m on her couch (which is where I am at this very minute) or we’re across the country travelling together, she makes me feel at home. Going through the pain of losing my mother and trying to transition into this life without her is what made me realize that home truly is a person. “Home is where the heart is”, and when I’m with her I am always home. Today I am going back to my abandoned apartment. There will be an inexplicable amount of work to do just to transition it into a livable house… But she is coming with me. No matter how much effort it takes to turn my apartment around I know that it will be worth it. I will never lose my motivation because I will be walking in the door already feeling the pride and comfort of home. Because home will be there with me. Once we finish what seems like an insurmountable task, she will make the trip back to her house. I know that this will become the my true test. Being alone in my apartment, can I find a sense of home? Can I hold on to the warmth that she brings into my space even when she leaves? Honestly, I’m scared of what I’ll be facing when I’m having to face it alone. But if I start to feel homesick, I know where she lives.