June 4, 2012

What does home mean to me?

This question was posed by a local non-profit that I follow, the Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland. As I read the question, I realized there was so much I had to say regarding home that a simple "like" on Facebook was inadequate.

I've had the privilege of living in many homes. As I try to remember them, I also try to figure out what they have in common. Here is the list of homes I remember.

  • As a toddler in a suburban home where we walked to the park, post office, and doctor's office
  • As a youngster on a small family farm where our schoolmates gathered because our yard was huge for sports and we had a pond for swimming
  • As a teenager in a South Florida city on a cul-de-sac where coconuts grew in our yard
  • As a high school senior in a walking suburb where I lived so close to my school that our home was often a meeting spot
  • As a young college kid living in a dormitory at a commuter university, surrounded by international students as well as kids who just had to get out
  • As a close to graduation college kid flexing the wings of independence in my first apartment, a basement level flat with ground level casement windows to greet walking by friends
  • As a young college grad ready to get married, in an upscale suburban apartment community
  • As a newlywed investing in our first home in the city with walk-ability, classic charm, convenience and affordability
  • As a young parent, expecting our second child, chasing the suburban dream, moving to a planned community in the suburbs complete with golf, pool, and tennis
  • As a relocated family, realizing that our planned community had a cost that didn't match the benefits, moving back to a suburban home sans planning
Repeatedly, the only commonality I can recognize in the assorted places I called "home" is that "I was there." But home is more than a residency question. Sure I was there, but what else made it feel like home? What made where I lived "home"? 

It was comfort and love. Living somewhere without either would have kept the place from being home, and relegated to to mere shelter. I have moved many times and in many communities. I can honestly say that they didn't always feel like home, especially where I live now, where I didn't know a soul for several years and where my children didn't grow up. But now I realize, I have both comfort and love and that my faraway town has become home. 

Shelter is where home starts. We take care of the most basic comfort first, then we add on. We acclimate, we assimilate, we make it home. 

The Glass CastleA few years ago, I read The Glass Castle. It's a fascinating true story of young Jeannette Wall's life. As a child of transient parents, her childhood was spent one step ahead of the bill collectors. Yet, as her story unfolded, even in horrid conditions, I found myself feeling a sense of home in some of her locations. I even understood her mother's sense of home squatting in a vacated NYC building.

So when I consider, "what does home mean to me?" My answer is simple. Home is where I find comfort, security, and love.

What does HOME mean to you? 


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