How to Make a House a Home

Philosophy: You and the little ones tethered to you. That’s what makes a house a home.

Almost literally in my backyard is the house I bought when I was getting divorced. It was tiny and dated in spots, but it was all mine and the kids loved it. I loved it. I loved that it was full of promises and warm light and potential. It stood for freedom.

We’ve moved twice since then. We needed more space. But it was in that house that I learned what makes a house a home. It turns out, it’s not two parents, rigid rules, perfection or brand new appliances.

Countertops? I’d trade granite counter tops for the light blue Formica I had there any day. I used to have granite counter tops. They were nice. But, it was on the blue Formica that the kids and I had just enough room to stand side by side and make dinner together.

Bedroom Size? My bedroom had precisely enough room for a double bed, one dresser and a night stand.  There was still enough room in my bed for two extra little people who had bad dreams, though and that was all that was important.

Finished Basement? The basement was nothing special. Paint was peeling off the floor. In the winter, it was the perfect spot for riding scooters in circles and bouncing tennis balls off the walls for the dog.

Walk-In Shower? The ceiling above the shower slanted. If I was another half inch taller, I would have to duck to get in. I painted it my favorite shade of lavender and left all the original hardware. There was a window above the bath tub, so the kids would stand up during their baths and try to see outside.

Needless to say, it was far from perfect., but its scars are what gave it so much charm.

To answer the question of what makes a house a home, it’s having a place to make dinner together. It’s having enough room in your bed in case of bad dreams. It’s a place to play when it’s snowing outside. It’s a room that’s painted your favorite color that reminds you each time you walk in that your have your niche carved out in the world.

It’s not something you have to own. It’s anywhere you can walk over the threshold and feel the world’s weight leave your shoulders.

Our house has four floors. It has more than 11 rooms. Our nights go like this: I sit down on the couch with Tyler. A few minutes later, Jack makes his way up there. The Elise bounces down on the other side of me. Four of us are crammed onto on couch cushion (give or take) and when she calls for Angie, the dog makes 5.

I solved this problem by getting a bigger couch.

I find myself wondering why everyone always needs to be right on top of me. I read a quote somewhere once that said, “Kids know nothing about personal space. They’d crawl right inside your eyeball if they could.”

I think it’s because the world out there seems so big when you’re very little. They need to be tethered to something to anchor them down. Those first few wobbly steps as babies are the beginning of a long sequence of going and coming.

The older they get, the farther they go. Each time they return, they lose a little wariness. So do we; until as parents we forget what it was like the first time their baby feet touched the ground.

A house is where we live. A home is a harbor to which the people we love want to return. A home is what keeps the tethers strong.

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