Thursday, August 25, 2011

House and home

Yikes! Any of my Michigan friends see what's wrong with the keys we were handed
by the sellers of our new house?
Today we bought a house.  We went in a small office in a fancy building and after signing an impossibly tall stack of papers, we were given keys and told it was ours.  A house.  Ours.  As I dwell in this state of extended in-betweenness we call "moving", this middle space of both homelessness and an overabundance of house, I am reminded of how deliciously disruptive a move can be.  Shaken from the ease of my everyday and uprooted from the familiar, I am left once again to question my attachment to what surrounds me, weighing the value of each item as I hesitate between the Good Will pile and the keepers.  Do I love this slightly broken chair enough to load it in and out of a truck?  Do I need this old sweater enough to take it along for yet another beginning? And, ultimately, the question that echos most resoundingly in every moment I linger in limbo: Where am I amid all of this stuff?  What is me and what is just more baggage along for the ride? 

My daughter Siena, who is three, is still trying to wrap her brain around what it means to move.  She simply cannot conceive of the fact that this house we have been living in is not ours, that we will leave it behind and take all of our stuff along.  For her, the house and the stuff are one.  They are the entity she knows as home.  There is no parsing out what is ours and what is house.  She has asked me at least five times, for example, if we can take her closet with us. . .and the garden. . .oh, and the hill she likes to roll down in the yard.  It hurts me to tell her no, to explain that those things are not ours and simply can't be taken.  Yet even as I watch the confusion cloud her face, I understand that she is learning a lesson that I continue to learn, the identity-shaking revelation which slaps me into perspective each time we move---we are not made up of our things or our surroundings.  We are the sum of our experiences.  We are the elation felt when rolling down the hill, the comfort of a cozy closet, the joy of a clumsily experimental garden.  We are all of this even as we leave it behind. 

And perhaps that is the difference between house and home.  Home is where our experiences dwell, where our memories linger and multiply until we begin to think that the walls themselves are somehow part of the fabric of their existence. But they're not. In my case, they are dry wall and sloppily applied paint. Our experiences here are what transformed the downright ugly into "charm", what made us love this place despite our better judgment.  And that is, in the end, a magic we created, one that exists outside of the "stuff" of a house.  Today we bought a house.  Only we can make it a home.

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