My recent move from northern California to western Maryland has me pondering the question: What makes a house a home?
I’ve walked into houses and immediately felt at home. I’ve walked into other houses, including at least one beautifully decorated house, and been aware that I didn’t feel that “at home” thing. I can’t put my finger on what it is, but I do believe I’m picking up on something more than whether or not I like the décor.
As I was packing up my things in California, I could feel my home becoming a house once again. I could attribute this to the fact I was taking things off the walls and shelves and putting them in boxes, but I think it’s more than that. I was withdrawing my emotional investment in the house. This process of detaching was necessary to ease my departure and to create space for someone else to make a home within those walls.
Now I am in temporary lodgings while I look for a more permanent home. I’m unpacking the things I brought, feeling a little lost because I’ve moved 3000 miles to an unfamiliar place. This apartment is home because it’s my current address, but it’s not home in that deeper intangible way.
The other day I unpacked a suitcase and found a blue ceramic spoon rest tucked between clothes. When I put it on the stove, I smiled. It brightened up the stove and barebones kitchen and I noticed that this small act felt more significant to me than placing my two favorite mugs on the kitchen shelf.
I don’t remember packing the spoon rest.
As I packed, I carefully selected things that would come with me in the car while most of my things are stored in California until I find a more permanent home. I chose things that would help me feel grounded and at home during the transition: clothes, several books, two mugs and some loose leaf Golden Nepal tea, a few kitchen utensils, a knitting project and my inventory of handwoven towels, napkins, table runners and scarves.
Finding the spoon rest in my suitcase was a welcome surprise and an unexpected gift. This little piece of my former home mysteriously made me feel more at home at this address precisely because it was not on my list of essential items. It reminded me that beautiful, meaningful details make a difference in our everyday lives because they fill a basic need we easily forget or ignore — the need for beauty.
My intention was to get by during this transition, not to create a home in this apartment. Thankfully, a bright blue object (the spoon rest) made its way into my suitcase. This unplanned touch of beauty has shifted my relationship to this apartment. It is now enough of a home that I can do more than just get by until I settle into that more permanent home.
My invitation to you: What do you think makes a house a home? I’d love to hear.