home is… what?

One of my favourite bloggers, Sandra at Herzensart, wrote a post about the idea of “home” the other day.  She posted pictures of her grandparents’ home, and talked of how lovingly her grandmother spoke of it, and the stories she would tell about it.  She asked readers how they defined the concept of “home” and I was surprised that a number of her readers couldn’t identify a relationship to any particular home.  Strangely, that heartened me a little.

I’ve been preoccupied with the idea of “home” for some time.  Mainly because I feel like I’ve been looking for home for almost six years now.  There is part of me that is probably resisting it, that has no intention of ever finding home.  In certain periods of my life I felt trapped – trapped by my youth; trapped in a bad marriage; trapped in a part of the province my entire family had moved away from; trapped by loneliness.  I see this ongoing resistance to being trapped as both liberating and disorienting.   Managing a perpetual disengagement can be exhausting over time, you know? 

But what is home?  And why do I want it so bad?  Looking back over my life, I have real love for a couple of places I’ve lived in – others are just tucked in an unused, dusty corner of memory, more of an informational file rather than holding any sort of meaningful, formative impact on my life.  Or maybe the meaningful formative impacts are things I’m just not wanting to address at this point because I’m a great big avoider.

Of the places I’ve lived I think mostly of the home I sold six years ago.  I think of it with great affection and longing for the comforts and strength I felt there.  My girls were six and eight when we moved in, and I sold up when my youngest went away to college and my oldest was out on her own. 

I knew that house was for us the instant I walked in the front door for the first time.  It was pretty as a picture – with white stucco exterior and brown trim, on an old street lined with old trees that lead to the river.  The interior was filled with oak trim and original wood floors.  The stairs creaked marvellously and it had three stained glass windows in greens and golds.  It was haunted by a ghost who looked like Johnny Cash, and our orange cat Woody used to like to sit at the highest point of the stair’s banister, where he could keep watch over his world.  The small kitchen had five doorways, and there was a large foyer area, the same size as the living room, in which I was able to place the biggest Christmas tree I could cram into the back of my Honda.  It had a large front porch on which we sat every single day in warm weather and over many late nights.

The house was terribly impractical and needed more repairs than I could afford to carry out.  The basement flooded regularly, the sunroom roof leaked, the electrical system was antiquated, the old windows needed to be propped open with sticks and it was drafty as hell in winter.  But we loved it.  It was a house filled with love and growing (both girls and mom) and music and talking and laughter.  And when there were tears the house wrapped around us and gave us a place in which to feel safe.

So what is it about that house?  It was where I started over.  But I’ve started over before that, and after it and don’t associate any connection with places I lived in then.

Maybe it’s about me being a mother and raising my girls and tending to our space and property.  But we lived as a family in a home previous to that, and while there are lots of happy memories associated with it, but I never gave those four walls a second thought once we left it. 

Is the attachment associated with ownership?  This house was chosen by me and had all the things I wanted.  Our previous house was chosen by my ex-husband and built on his family’s farm and the builder convinced us to remove all aspects of the design I so loved but he deemed impractical, like the wrap-around porch and the fireplace.  Therefore it wasn’t mine.

So then, now that I am renting am I doomed to never feel home again?  This spring I’m trying again, and I’m determined to find a place I can make mine. 

Wish me luck.  I just want to go home.


  1. Mike March 15, 2010

    Is that the place Janet and I visited that I remember walking into a room and your music collection was immediately to the right on a shelf against the wall? 🙂

  2. Pati March 15, 2010

    I’m with you on this one! I too am in the midst of looking for a home, even though it will again be a temporary one. Best of luck, I sure hope you find one that you love.

  3. Jennifer March 15, 2010

    Yes Mike – Grandma’s funeral. What a special night that was. Everyone bravely sleeping over any available sofa, floor, futon, just so we could all hang out and reminisce.

  4. Jennifer March 15, 2010

    Good luck to both of us Pati – who knows what’s around the corner?

  5. Susannah March 16, 2010

    Oooh, what a big subject HOME is to most of us, especially those who have lost or left the place we considered home. I suspect that there are more people than we perhaps realise who are searching for a place that feels like ‘home’.
    I loved reading your description of the home you loved, I could see it! I love the idea of a front porch or even better a wrap around one. Unfortunately those sort of porches are not something you see in England.
    I hope you find yourself a wonderful new HOME. x

  6. Jennifer March 16, 2010

    Yeah, every house on the street had a front porch, and often it was the place where you had a chat with your neighbour. Many conversations were had on that porch. 🙂

  7. Selma March 20, 2010

    This post resonates with me so much. I sold my home 7 years ago and have been renting ever since. Home is something I crave almost as much as air. It is so hard to put down proper roots when there is the possibility of having to move when your lease is up. I hope that one day we both find the homes we need.

  8. Jennifer March 21, 2010

    I hope so too Selma. I don’t plan to buy any time soon, so wondering, if “home” is achievable renting?

  9. Rowe March 22, 2010

    I really feel for you Jen. I sold my apartment a few years ago and have been renting which I am hating with a passion especially since the place I’m in is on the market and I’ve been given an eviction notice. Which of course means moving, again. I once loved moving around, living in new places, but since owning my own gorgeous apartment, a place of my own that I adored, moving around has lost its appeal. Wishing you the very best of luck or answered prayers in finding a suitable place very soon.

  10. Jennifer March 22, 2010

    Thanks Rowe. And wishing the same for you!

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