Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is home?

As some of you may know (and are now all about to find out), I finally submitted pieces of my book to an agent.  It was a big step, and I'm still really freaked out about it.  I've gone back and forth about what the underlying story is, and ultimately it's about the idea of home.  What IS home?  What are the things inside that define your home?  How do you define yourself when your home and everything inside is gone?  I'm going to start tackling these questions, and I'd love for you to join in.  Each post will have its own question for you to reflect on, whether you post your own blog about it (and hopefully link back) or whether you leave your thoughts just in the comments.  For those who post on their own blogs, I will certainly link up at the bottom.

To start: What defines a home?

In the two years since the fire, I've learned that our home is much more than the four walls (ok, there are far more than four walls!) and roof that surround us.  For me, it's a feeling, an internal sense of comfort and familiarity.

When I went back to Virginia Beach this summer, stepping off the plane into 105 degree weather with immediate sweat-inducing humidity was familiar.  It smelled of salt-water and sand.  Those things were home in the global sense.  I remember once driving home from college and pulling off the freeway and passing by the "Welcome to Virginia Beach" sign and crying.  I felt warm inside, even though I wasn't really physically warm, and I started to tear up.  Home.

I've had lots of homes since high school.  A college dorm.  A studio apartment in D.C.  Denver.  A two-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  An old apartment complex in the historic district of Boise across from the Co-Op.  And Sweetwater Drive.  Each of those places was home because I made them so.  It wasn't just merely living in them that made them my home, but rather the stuff inside that differentiated my two-bedroom from the one down the hall.  The green painted walls.  The pink bathroom.  The butterfly rug.  The books, signed and not.  My photos.  And the home at Sweetwater Drive felt even more like home, both because we owned it and also because of the work we put into it.  I could tell you a story about building that large deck in the backyard.  Even the sod had a story and made it ours. 

After the fire, even though I had shelter (first in the form of a hotel room and then a rental), I didn't feel home.  Nothing was familiar.  Even the pillows I bought that were identical to the ones I had owned were not mine.  I hadn't mashed them in 400 directions, indented my head every night for two years.  I had a spatula, but it wasn't the same brand, and it didn't feel the same.  When I went to Labor and Delivery to have Kellen, I didn't have any old clothes, any comforting items to remind me of home, remind me of all the things to come.  A spatula or t-shirt or pillow might seem inconsequential.  In fact you might wonder how I can possibly define my homes in terms of that "STUFF."  But that stuff, for me, is what makes this place a home... and not just four walls and a roof.

What defines your home?  Is it the structure?  Is it an item?  Is it the way you feel when you look out the window into your garden?  Or something else entirely?

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