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Second thoughts on making a home

March 31st, 2004 · No Comments

Today I had to take Home Comforts back to the library so last night I was up a bit late skimming through chapters and typing out some thoughts into a post. Since I wrote last night, I’ve been thinking more about the book. While the detailed information can be overwhelming, I also thought it was fun to read.

I’ve been thinking about the author’s description of home. I think Cheryl Mendelson had a good point. Not that a home has to be dust-free or dust-mite-free (ours is neither) but that it is the little things that make a home a place where you can be yourself.

To me, home is a place where I can put my bare feet on the coffee table and curl up on the sofa beneath a blanket with a book. It’s a place where I know what there is to eat and where to find a cup of tea and something for a snack. Home is where I can leave laundry on the floor – at least for a little while – and take a long bath with my favorite scented soap. Home has a comfortable bed with just the right amount of blankets and a pillow that knows my head.

And I hope this home is a comfortable place for my family and my friends. For those who live here and share my life every day. For those who stop by on a moment’s notice to ring the bell and say hi.

Not that long ago, I was so caught up on housekeeping that my home became uncomfortable for company. This was when our house was new, as in brand new, paint still drying on the walls new, carpet still stinking on the floor new, and I worried over every dirt and ding. I had spent hours selecting what I wanted in the house, and now I wanted to preserve my expenditures with appearance of perfection. I wanted everything organized and the house fit into some perfect order I concocted in my mind from catalogs combined with imagination. A few friends who came over told me that they felt I was too concerned about the house. They felt uncomfortable. I regret it. I’ve tried to repent.

Home is where you are most yourself. For some that means a faded blue bathrobe worn at the breakfast table, blinking strings of Christmas lights hung across the walls, geraniums growing on the kitchen countertops, favorite coffee stashed in the freezer, cross-stitched pillows decorating the couch. It’s climbing under the covers together in the morning or hugging and hanging in front of the fireplace at night.

For us at this season it means Legos in the living room, a toy kitchen in the hallway, plastic vegetables and wooden fruit under foot. The other day I let the girls decorate the mantle above the fireplace. It’s fun to see an arrangement of a red plastic fence, various pieces of colored clay and paper constructions as I enter the living room. It says home to me.

I hope this home is a place where Ted and our daughters can be themselves. I hope it is where they want to be. And I hope it is where friends and strangers feel welcomed and refreshed too.

There’s some strange satisfaction or inner fulfillment I am finding the more I think about what makes a home. I’m not sure why this concept appeals to me strongly. The word “home” has been a powerful one for me. In college, while listening to a song about “home”, I would start to weep, aching for a place where I belonged. What I have now is the safest place I’ve ever lived – I don’t mean that in terms of crime statistics – but rather as a state of living, a level of freedom and comfort, where I can be myself, whoever I am, with my husband, children and friends. It feels safe. It feels good.

What Lisa Williams wrote about pitcherization comes to mind:

When I first met Dear Husband, he had an African pygmy hedgehog named Emmett. Like all of his kind, Emmett was a shy, nocturnal creature, and when he had had enough, he retreated into his burrow, which in his case was a purple Tupperware pitcher turned on its side.

This habit of Emmett’s led to an enduring private nelogism — one of those words or phrases that form part of a private language between people who are very close. We called it “pitcherizing,” which was Spousish for “I’ve had enough, I’m staying here in our human burrow for the evening and reading.”

What makes a home?
For a hedgehog, it may be a purple pitcher!

I’ve been thinking: How can I help our family enjoy our home more? What can I do so that those who live here and those who visit feel like they can be themselves? …What is a home?

…and realizing that what our home is right now is a mess! Perhaps it is the spring sunlight, but I am suddenly seeing all kinds of crumbs cluttering corners, dusty windowsills, toys and items that need tidying, laundry laying in piles across the carpet. I’m not feeling competent at the moment….time to go tidy and at least give the dust mites a little challenge….

then again, what makes a home more than a little dust and a lot of time with those you love?

Tags: motherhood