20 August 2009


I have been thinking extensively lately on the concept of "home". I think that everyone around my age has, is, or will go through that weird transition point when you realize that your parents' house is no longer what you would consider your home, yet simultaneously, there isn't really a whole replacement yet. As per my roommmate, Ryan Steed, & I's many deep backporch discussions, lit by a citronella candle and smoking Camel Lights like they government is going to bust in and steal them, "home" is one of the ideas that we often revisit, as if we'll find what we're looking for if we just talk it out one more time. What do you consider home? Is home the house you grew up in? Is home where you store your shit, and sleep, and get dressed in the morning? Is home, like I've heard it described, the "place where you complain the most & are loved the most"? More importantly, is home a physical location to you? Is it a house, or a building? Or is it a feeling? This post will not be extroidinarily insightful, as this is still something I am pondering, and plan on discussing more with whomever is willing in the future. I think I have come to some sort of definite answer to the question, for the time being.

To me, home is where I'm comfortable.

I think it breaks down into several aspects to me, and at one point, before I turned 18, all of those aspects were present in one location. Now, having lived on my own for three years, at six different addresses, with fifteen different roommates, they are scattered. To me, my home is where I put my shit. Not just my cereal and my blue jeans and DVDs, but everything else, actually. Anywhere I have ever moved in, I have always covered the walls in photographs & postcards, and the windowsills in trinkets before I put my clothes in a dresser. It's funny, but the things that I have around me in my bedroom that really transform that space into my space are things I wouldn't pack to go on a trip, because they're not utilitarian whatsoever, except that they make me feel at home. Polaroids of my best friends, cards from art shows from roadtrips, souvenirs from jobs and parties and family; those are the things I need to have around. Also, secondarily, and along the lines of comfortable physical space, I need sanctioned boundaries where I am allowed to be me. In my new house, I have a about thirty square feet of space that is just for me to paint, and draw, and blog, and leave plates with crumbs on. That is one of the most important things to me. A sense of freedom within an enclosed environment. Perhaps spatial relationships also feed into my desire for comfort. Our living room is massive, but even if I had had the option, I still would have picked to cram all of my inks & paints into that corner rather than sprawl everywhere.

I think the biggest second aspect to the comfort of home is the people. Steed & I have similar views on our childhood homes. He doesn't have a bedroom at home, nor do I at my mother's (& although I do have one at my father's, I oddly enough usually sleep in the guest room), and beside that, the physicaly edifices don't hold the real value, as they are not the setting in which we lived our entire lives, but only a portion, whereas our roommate Katie has lived her entire life in the same house, where she still has her same bedroom. This is where we differ, and perhaps may have been the spark to our first discussions. Katie can go home and stay for consecutive weeks comfortably, while neither Steed or I could hang on to sanity for more than a few days. Not to say I don't enjoy my dad's company; on the contrary for sure, my father is one of my closest friends. Part of my heart, if that's the cornball expression I'm going to choose to employ, is at that house on Concord Green Cove in Cordova, TN, because it is comfortable. Because it is predictable, and safe. Because my dad will always do that shrill voice & eyebrow raise when I sit on the couch with my keys still attached to my belt loop. Because there is always V8 and garlic pickles in the fridge, and fifteen boxes of half-empty spaghetti in the cabinet. Because there is always a huge pile of mail engulfing the counter for me to look through. Because there is always a cop drama recorded on the DVR, just waiting for us to take our seats on the leather couches with bottles of Ozarka and blankets and watch them until the wee hours of the morning.

In a way, though, I consider where I'm closest to my sleeping brother's room to be home, because of the many times I would go into his room before I slept to find him slumped over on his bed, sitting indian style, fast asleep with his nose in the corners of a book, and I'd lay him back, and turn out the light, so he wouldn't get in trouble for reading late in the morning.

I'd also consider wherever my cats, Truman or Bill (R.I.P.) are around to come beg for attention to be home. Or where my grandmother has set out those godawful pilgrim salt & pepper shakers for Thanksgiving. It's a distinct piece of familiarity.

It's odd. When you're young, and nearing adulthood, you can't wait to get out of your parents' house. You can't wait to get your own apartment and make your own home with your own rules. Then one day, you have it, and you realize that painting the walls, and buying furniture, and stocking the fridge do not a home make. It's like we spend 18 years trying to get out of that comfort zone, and we'll end up spending the rest of our lives finding and cultivating our own.

Me? Stuff is a big part of that for me. I have always been a "stuff" person. I collect a lot of things that are useless, but I love to have them around. I think I'm a lot like my Mimi in that respect. I think when I'm in my fifties, I'll have some huge house that is much too big for me, and therefore always messy, and it will be just filled to the brim with stuff. Paintings and photographs and old wind up toys and broken jewelry and sculptures and lumpy furniture and fifty hand crocheted rugs from my mother. And that is one of the most comforting thoughts I can think of.

So while I picked my current roommates very methodically, in an attempt to create a sense of home by living with what I consider to be a second family, I also have covered every surface in the house with my knick-knacks, yet still have boxes of clothes sitting in the foyeur a month after move-in. But that's just me.


Richard Fudge said...

Very interesting thoughts. I think about this often. After graduating college in 2003, i struggled through similar questions. I had lived at home during college so i had fewer experiences with roommates etc. To me, home is where you gather for special events like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other family celebrations (birthdays, babies, weddings, funerals, etc).

In the course of 2 years after college, I got a job, moved into my own apartment, my parents who'd been married over 25 years divorced, they sold the house, i got married, my dad remarried... i could go on.

In many ways, I still feel homeless. there is no longer a place to return to that has a feel of comfort, history, and wholeness. I feel more at home with my in-laws that with my blood relatives. but as much as i appreciate that home feeling with them, it only highlights my sense of loss of my original family and home.

Lauren Rae Holtermann said...

I understand completely. Even the houses where I've always gathered to have holiday dinners & whatnot have changed repeatedly. Memphis as a city is more of a home to me than any house. Knowing where to get a good sandwich or what's still open past midnight, that's the kind of stuff that becomes important. Kind of the same as knowing where the potholders are in your grandma's kitchen.