Home Is Where the Heart Is

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Home.

It’s such a loaded word. It can mean so many things to so many people.

It can be a place, a person, or a feeling.

Home has meant a lot of things to me over the years, and I’d like to share them with you.

When I was younger, home meant the house where I lived with my sister and parents. We’ll confine this discussion to the ones I actually remember.

The first house I remember living in was in Eerie, PA. It was a white house, with a red roof, a wraparound porch, and a yellow front hallway. And that is the sum total of what I remember. We only lived there for eight months and I was three.

The second house I remember was in Jamestown, NY. It was a ranch built next door to a farm house (on an actual farm with real live cows) for family members of the farm owner. It was later rented to my family. I started out sharing a room with my sister, but later got my very own. The front room (part entry way, part living room) had harvest gold walls and a full length mirror on the wall near the door. This is where the first Christmases I remember happened and where I celebrated my fourth through sixth birthday parties.

The next place I called home was in Lansing, MI. We moved into a town house a month and a half before my seventh birthday (which happened to be on Easter that year). The entire family on my dad’s side came to visit for Easter to make up for my lack of friends to have a party for. I have a lot of fond memories of that townhouse. I had my own room, and got to help plan where the furniture went. The entire family had to share a bathroom.

Lansing was where I first remember having a “second home” that really meant something. I bumped into another girl in the community pool and we’ve been best friend ever since that first summer. She lived in a townhouse across the complex and her mother made sure I memorized the number before I left the pool that day. The two of us practically lived together after that. So her house became home too. And later, when she and her mom moved to an actual house across town, that became my new home too.

I was less thrilled with my actual second home in Lansing. My dad lost his job and we had to move to a smaller place, a two bedroom townhouse, which meant my sister and I sharing a room. At least I already had a loft bed by then so there were no arguments about bunking the beds or who got the top bunk. But the place was still home, even if I did spent more time in the living room than my room and all the sleepovers were at my friends’.

When Dad got his next job it took us much further away. The move to Fayetteville was interesting. We rented a house and it quickly became home even if I did really miss Lansing and all my friends. Sometime I’ll tell you the story about this particular move, but for now, let’s talk about my home there. We discovered that the walls had never been painted, just having the mud coat over the drywall, which made it a nightmare to clean. We had a back deck we rarely used because none of us could tolerate the heat yet. Half the back yard was never sodded, so it was this scary jungle of five and six foot weeds. Mom and I tamed a corner of it to grow vegetable and snapdragons a few times, but it was rough going.

The next move took us to Gastonia, NC. Mom and Dad bought their first house. A split-level with yellow siding and a three-car carport. I only lived there three years before college, but it’s still the house I think of when someone says “home.” It’s the place I’ll go home to for the next several years, but eventually even that won’t be in the family anymore since my parents plan to retire elsewhere.

When I went off to college is when “home” becomes a little more nebulous.

I talked about heading home at the end of the day, meaning my dorm room. I said I was going home for the weekend, meaning my parents’ house in Gastonia. I talk about getting home Sunday nights, meaning back to my dorm room. This is when I realized that home wasn’t so much a place as a feeling and frequency. Home was somewhere I felt completely comfortable to be myself, or where I was sleeping that night.

This trend continued through three years in a dorm room, a study abroad in Scotland where home was the flat I was sharing with other exchange students, a campus apartment senior year, and past graduation.

Then it gets even more confusing.

I moved back home for nine months after college. So home was the house in Gastonia. Then I went to grad school. I had two apartments over the two and a half years, and they were both home for me. They were the first places that were just mine and I worked really hard to make them good places.

After grad school I went back home again and got married in June. My husband and I lived in my in-laws house with his sister. My in-laws had already moved to SC by then, so it was just the three of us. So I was home there, and would go home to get stuff from my mom and dad’s and then drive back home to where I was living. My husband ragged on me about it all the time.

Eventually my sister-in-law also moved to SC, so it was just my husband and I in the house and I worked to make it a little more ours, but we knew they would be selling it once they finished all the repairs. That’s when my husband decided to go back to school. We picked out an apartment in Raleigh that would be our new home, and he would start classes while I looked for a job up there.

I stayed in the house for another few months while continuing my job near Gastonia. Then I moved back in with my parents and my in-laws sold their house. And that’s what got me to where I am now as far as where home is.

During the week, I live with my parents and go to my day job. On weekends I live with my husband and our cat three hours away. I recently found a job in the Raleigh area, so in a few weeks I’ll be living in my apartment full time, so that will truly be home again, which is nice. I’ll finally be out of my parents’ house for good.

My parents’ house doesn’t feel as much like home as it used to. They’re replaced the couches I grew up with, and the room that was mine in high school has been converted to their office. The room I stay in started out with a queen size bed and has now downsized to a twin that will one day be my niece’s primary sleeping place when she visits her grandparents. So I’m glad I’ll finally be moving home for good to be with my husband in a home we made together.

Home is where the heart is. I can see a lot of truth in that. Home is wherever my husband is. Whether we’re at my parents’, his parents’, a hotel room, or our own apartment, home is where I’m with him.

I still talk about going home to him on weekends, and tell my parents I’m on the way home when I’m heading back to Gastonia, but that’s not all home is to me these days. Home is where I can be with the love of my life.

What does home mean to you right now? Has it always meant that? Or has home changed for you over the years like it has for me?

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