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Mom of the House: What is 'home'?

A funny thing happened during our house hunt...
Mom of the House with Brianna Bell

I have always been fascinated by the concept of home.

Most of us, when asked to think of the word home, don’t have much difficulty conjuring up imagery, memories, and feelings of what home means to us.

My first true home was the place that I grew up. A small 1,000 square-foot semi-detached house in Brampton. I lived there from nine to nineteen, an important stretch of time for me. 

When I think of my childhood home I immediately remember our dark blue door, and the little light on the porch that often housed a bird’s nest. I smell the unique scent that can only be described as home to me. I remember my bedroom, with my single sleigh bed, and my stuffed animals arranged neatly on a wooden shelf. I smell my mother’s homemade pizza in the kitchen, and Vim in the bathroom. My memories of home are visceral, both the good and the bad. 

This past year I have wrestled with the concept of home. Since getting married I have failed to settle into a permanent dwelling place, a true home. My husband and I are young, and don’t have the money yet to purchase a house of our own. As renters just starting out in our careers, we have bounced from house to house, city to city. 

The longest we have lived in one house in the last five years is our current place, where we just entered our 27th month of living here. This home of ours has been featured in The Globe & Mail, The Guelph Mercury, and even in a story in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul.

The reason our home has attracted so much attention is because it’s a basement apartment, where our family of four have happily and joyfully taken up residence. We painted our apartment in bright yellows, beiges and blues. Our youngest child has only ever lived in this house, and our oldest child only has memories here. It really has become a permanent home, a place where I have made memories and enjoyed my days.

But this last year I have also wrestled with conflicting emotions. Deep discontentment has bubbled to the surface of my heart and mind, and often. I have looked out of my window longingly, wanting something more. I have worried about my oldest daughter, who has started to notice that her home is different than others. 

My craving for a house with a front door, a traditional structure to reside in, has become overpowering. 

These last few months I haven’t thought of much else. I’ve spent days hoping that a move would solve all of my problems. My loneliness, my desire for community, my hope that my children will be a bit less stir crazy in a place with more leg room. 

Finally, after months of debating, calculating, praying and discussing, my husband and I agreed that we would look for a new home. The expectations had been we would stay in our basement apartment until we could buy, but the possibility of buying continues to slip through our fingers, and I finally said, “enough!”

We started our new house hunt, with a laundry-list of “must haves.” Moving a family of four became more complicated, with growing children and growing needs. We wanted a house close to my husband’s work at Lakeside, we wanted a house with good schools that wouldn’t require a bus, we wanted a house with extra space, but it had to be affordable. We went to showing after showing, it got to the point where our oldest daughter would say, “Not another house!”

A funny thing happened during our house hunt. I returned after each viewing with a contented sigh. I loved our home, with the cozy decor, and the sweet scent that only I could smell. I loved our children’s room, with their artwork carefully displayed on the wall. I loved my husband and I’s tiny bedroom, and the little office Daniel had built for me. 

I began to appreciate my house, the memories that I made in it, and the people that I shared my space with. 

Most days my husband would ask, “Have you changed your mind? Don’t you just love our place?”

And I would smile, and shrug. 

“I love our place, but I haven’t changed my mind,” was always my reply.

Last week, after our tireless search efforts, we finally walked into a house that we knew could become our home.

Our children ran around, climbing the stairs and dancing in every room. They looked outside the windows and pointed to the neighbours passing by. This home had all our requirements and more. It was the perfect spot, at a decent price, with wonderful schools and amenities.

In six weeks, we will pack up our belongings and bring them to our new place. We will paint our house and turn it into a home. We will bring our own familiar scent that only we can smell, and we will begin to create memories as a family that we will cherish forever.

As much as I will miss our old house, with our old memories, I am thankful that I’ve found a new house that makes my heart feel lighter and my soul refreshed. But regardless, I know that wherever I go, I will be happy as long as I’m with my three favourite people.

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.” — Robin Hobb, Fool’s Fate