A house is a haven for everything my we hold dear, not just for objects of nostalgia but for the life that we have built and continue to build and share together. It echoes of conversations, laughs, whispers, tears, and an overflow of love.
Before my mother-in-law comes over though (or anyone for that matter), I have to clean. I vacuum vigorously our dark wood tiled floors, agonizing over the small tufts of white dog fur that seem to forever evade the suction of the vacuum. I fluff and arrange the pillows on the sofas. I put everything in its place, moving like a whirlwind from one room to another and back again. Above all though, I have a thing for how my house smells. Our house was built in 1960, and sometimes the damp and dirt of years passed creep in through the old windows mingling with the scent of last night’s dinner wafting from the trashcan in the kitchen. I light candles: sweet, fresh, and bold fragranced candles.
I know I’m not alone in this tradition. It’s common practice to do our best to make our house look like the inspiration for a still life work of art when people come to visit. The video Company is Coming on YouTube has over four million views for a reason, though I solemnly swear I’m not that bad! (Check it out: Company is Coming)
But truly the best things about the places we live are the things that make it feel like home. Home is about comfort. Home is about feeling safe and feeling like you belong. It is a refuge from the outside world. It is a personal haven. It is where you can put on your PJs as soon as you walk in the door.
When K bought this house and asked me to move in with him, I said no. Twice. Eventually he used his magic to convince me, and we moved in together while the house was still under considerable renovation. Construction was unavoidably pushed back a month, so when we moved in, only half of the house had flooring. The movers unloaded all of our furniture and belongings in a cluster on one side of the house. For someone who thrives on organization, it was a stressful time, though I like to say it was good practice in facing challenges.
K and I were in love and hopeful this house would begin to feel like our home, like a place where we could continue to grow and flourish as a couple. It did, and we got married a year later. Initially we had no set plans for how long we would stay in this house. We have talked frequently about the future as we continue to make improvements and renovate. We talk about the best way to add market value to the property and how to get back the money we have put into it, but with every change we make, this house feels more and more like us. It’s ours. It’s our beginning and such a big part of our story. I am beginning to think less and less of the future and instead focus more on how happy and content I am now where we are.
I like the components of our house that truly make it ours. We did the floors, some of the walls, the lighting, the wiring, the molding, the paint, the doors. Our touch as a couple in love, as a partnership, is everywhere. This week we are finally finishing the second bathroom. K and I have been happily sharing a bathroom this whole time, and I have grown used to it. While the newly remodeled bathroom is set to be primarily mine, I suspect I will miss sharing with my husband. I like both starting and ending my days along side him, like when we brush our teeth at the same time. I think I’ll keep that tradition going.
My home has evidence of our life in every nook because that’s what it is, a home, not just a house. Our personalities and character come through in everything.
My mother-in-law came over last weekend. I went through my process of cleaning and straightening as usual. The doorbell rang, and when I opened the door to her smiling face, she looked at me and said, “Lobster.” I must have looked confused because she said it again and pointed down at my welcome mat. Ah yes, my front doormat has a picture of a lobster on it. Because why not?
She steps inside and after a minute of chatting she remarks to me how the house always looks so comfortable and serene. She notes that everything is always clean and the house always smells so good. Her comments make me smile stupidly. Part of me wonders if she compliments our house in an effort to be a good guest and a supportive mother-in-law, but as I gaze around the living room I feel a swell of happiness.
The cool blue walls showcase nicely the framed print of my favorite painting, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, which I got at the Uffizi in Italy where the original painting hangs. The wide wall-mounted bookcase, part of the house when we bought it, is full of K’s collection of old books, including an old mechanic’s manual of his grandfather’s and a 1927 edition of Heidi I gave him this summer. The Pachira tree K got me for my birthday sits tall on its stand, absorbing the rays of sunlight floating in through the window. Dog toys and dog beds are scattered everywhere, despite the fact that I just picked all of them up an hour ago. The room is full of photos and mementos and pieces of us.
Homes are like this. They become part of us. Whether it’s your first home, the home of your parents, or your forever home, cherish all that you have. Cherish the memories and all the little moments that piece together your story and all that you have experienced. Take a minute to pause and appreciate the comfort and warmth and love you are so very fortunate to have surrounding you.
I don’t know how long we will be in this house. We continue to update it, improve it, add our personal touches. But as long as we are here, it will be a place where we always feel comfort and love. It is our home.