What does ‘home’ mean for you? Is it simply the place where you live? A dwelling for shelter and rest? Is it a place of comfort, safety, refuge, happiness? Is it where you can truly be yourself?
The meaning of home is unique for each of us. Whether home is a palatial residence or a rented room, home means a private space away from the public eye. Home is where we can relax and be our authentic selves. It’s a personal sanctuary that anchors our sense of well-being and a place where we can escape from the world.
A Temporary Loss of ‘Home’
The experience of moving house in the past year meant leaving a home and establishing another. As we prepared to sell, our home felt like a house rather than the home we loved — especially once it was emptied of personal objects and staged for sale. When we left the address we called home for so many years, we left parts of ourselves.
After moving, the process reversed itself. We got a new ‘home’ address but it didn’t feel like home. Initially, it felt as though we were staying at the new address rather than living here. Everything felt different. Fresh paint and cleaning gave it a ‘new’ smell. Vast empty rooms needed love and life.
It took time to unpack our favourite possessions and find suitable spots for special pictures, lamps, and rugs. Our move happened at the end of June which meant that, for weeks, we didn’t spend much time in the ‘new’ house as we stayed at the cottage for most of the summer. The cottage felt more like home than the house into which we had moved. We spent a day here and there unpacking and trying to prepare the new place for living.
When the summer ended we realized that we needed to spend significant blocks of time in our new space. We knew that the new house would never feel like home unless we actually stayed in it. It was time for a huge shopping trip to stock the fridge, pantry and cold room with food and other supplies.
Slowly rooms began to reflect our personalities. We carved out places for activities and hobbies. As we hung favourite pieces of artwork, filled rooms with plants, flowers, and music, rooms began to feel more like our spaces. Boxes got cleared from the garage to make room for cars.
As we’ve used our house, and begun to interact with neighbours, to entertain friends, to resume hobbies, we’ve slowly grown to feel at home again. Each of us has a favourite spot for drinking morning coffee and sitting around with sunshine pouring into the windows. We’ve also developed new rituals for the new spaces including more time for online music from the built in speaker system and time to watch birds in the nearby woods.
Some say that cooking makes a house into a home. I love to cook and bake but it took time to feel comfortable in the new kitchen. Although it’s a much bigger room with lots of counters and storage, things did not seem as convenient. Last month, I re-arranged the contents of the pantry and some of the drawers. Since then, it’s been easier to find supplies that I use most often and cooking is easier.
We left many memories in our previous place but we’ve begun to create new memories. Our grand daughter has her space and she has her treat drawer in the pantry. I don’t fuss when she drops popcorn kernels on the couch. I’m trilled when she carries her stool to the kitchen work island to help mix tuna salad for lunch. As memories build, so do the attachments to our new home.
The word ‘home’ evokes emotions
Home is a term loaded with emotional meaning, Feelings of belonging, shared love, loss, laughter, and tears are associated with home. ‘Home’ becomes the container for feelings, experiences, adventures, and safety.
My husband and others who are immigrants to Canada use terms like ‘going home’ when they plan trips back to the country of their birth.
Others identify the house in which they were born as their home. Childhood homes have influenced their psychological maturation. Many retirees move back to their childhood home town especially if their careers have required frequent moves to strange communities.
Our environments shape our lives and we shape our environments. Our surroundings can have a strong impact on sense of self and well-being. When we moved, our feelings of home were compromised. We felt dislocated and rootless. Once we filled the house with items we loved, once we started to feel comfortable living in the house, and once we created a sense of home, feelings of belonging emerged.
Regardless of what home means, I consider it a great privilege to have a home. On those days when cleaning and cooking feel like chores, I think of homeless people living on the streets; I think of people who inhabit tents in refugee camps for years on end; and I think of the women in shelters who have fled from domestic violence. I re-focus, say a prayer of gratitude, and realize what a privilege it is to have a place that’s home.