Home, sweet home

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What makes a house a home?

It doesn’t have to be a house to be a home, of course. You don’t have to own it on paper to own it in your heart. I remember friends’ cozy apartments, homey duplexes. The first home I remember was the small one-and-a-half story with a huge backyard where I lived with my parents and younger sister. We had to move from that home after my father died unexpectedly. My mother worked hard to make a home for my sister and me and we had some wonderful times and lovely places to live. It just wasn’t the same as the family home we’d shared too briefly and taken for granted. It wouldn’t be until I was an adult home-owner that I felt that same sense of home.

Reading Anne Hamre’s page 1 story about women homebuyers transported me back 14 years to the days when I was the proud first-time homeowner of an elderly Dutch Colonial on a busy street in a dicey neighborhood. The house, which cost $77,900, had loads of charm, needed a new roof, and had little insulation in the walls. The furnace went out just a week after I closed, early in the morning of a frigid Saturday in February, and the pipes froze so often that I had to run a fan trained on the them. None of that mattered. I saw only the beauty of the high ceilings, oak woodwork, brick fireplace and spacious rooms. And I was happy to have a home, knowing that not everyone does.

I’d worked hard to buy that house. I loved making decisions about it. Should I have a dishwasher installed or re-roof the garage? Like other new homeowners, I was eager to put my stamp on this place that was really home in a way that none of the eight rental units I’d lived in as an adult ever were. And by the time I left it nine years later, I’d made many memories there.

That is, of course, a big part of what makes a residential building something more than bricks and mortar-the joys and sorrows shared within the walls of the place.

I haven’t, of course, been true to the house. I’ve owned three other houses since and I’ve had flirtations (offers made and withdrawn) and failed love affairs (offers that fell through) with others. One house even held my family captive (we couldn’t sell it for more than a year).

In my heart, I know that home isn’t a physical place. I tell my daughters that home is wherever our family is. But you know, I still love my first house. Whenever I’m in the area, I go out of my way to drive by it and memories flood back.