On Moving and Making a House a Home

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

My sweet Dad helped us load and unload the whole truck.

If you ever have the wild idea to move during the last three weeks of the semester, just don’t. It will be exhausting, and disorganized, and rushed, and you will never feel caught up. You will live out of boxes until the semester ends, and you will keep moving piles of stuff (because you have SO MUCH STUFF) around the house so that you have a place to study. In short, just extend your lease by a month and move once summer starts.

Although moving at the tail end of a truly chaotic semester was nothing short of insanity, I do appreciate the ability to start fresh in a new place that meets our needs so much better. All of a sudden we found ourselves with more space, a patio, two bathrooms (TWO), and a beautifully landscaped apartment complex that isn’t in the middle of downtown. We also found ourselves eternally grateful for all of our friends and family that came out to help us schlep our poorly organized mess from one side of town to the other.

As we started packing up our old apartment, I couldn’t help but marvel at the way we attach ourselves to things and to places. We pack the entirety of our material lives into a box, and we lock the door, and we hope for the best. We hope that we will come home and things will be as they were. We hope that nothing bad will happen while we are gone. We hope that the maintenance guy won’t let out our pets. We hope that we will leave for work each morning and we will come home to a house that has been warmed all day by the sun. We expect that all of our pictures, and childhood stuffed animals, and our sentimental clothing items, and our electronics that we saved for and hoped for will be right where we left them.

But what if we lost all of that stuff? I mean, that’s what we buy renter’s and homeowner’s insurance for, isn’t it? We select the policy with reimbursement as close to replacement value as possible so that we can feel as though we have some sort of control over the material possessions we  cling to. Yet, in the back of our minds, there is a nagging. We know that our insurance policy may replace our TV or our pots and pans. We trust that the insurance adjustor will make it right and replace our bed or our computer. But, insurance companies can’t write a check and bring back our grandmother’s class ring or the external hard drive with years of photos on it. The things that really matter aren’t replaceable.

No one could ever write me a check and expect it to make up for the loss of the bunny rabbit that my grandmother made for me years and years ago. No amount of money could ever make the loss of Nathan or of our sweet, furry cats bearable. The human connection is what we really seem to be holding onto. When we lock our doors as we leave each day, we are turning the key with the intention of grasping at the bits and pieces of the people that we love that we have sewn into our material lives.

When I fret about the security of a home or the best way to pack a box, I’m not really concerned that a measuring cup might shatter or a picture frame may crack. I’m worried that the ring that once belonged to my mother and to her mother before that may not make its way back onto my finger. The ring probably has very little monetary value, but it is the only worldly possession I have left of my grandmother. My childhood bunny and blanket are not the first things I unpack because I need them to sleep with, but because they remind me so tenderly of my Mimi. The jackets that were given to me by the widower of a woman that I admired to no end bring tears to my eyes as I remember what an incredible person she was-and how much I miss her.

That is what I worry about. The bits and bobbles that bring me back to the people I love. Artworks from my sister, the Bible my parents gave me for graduation- none of these things mean much of anything to anyone else. But, I fret over them. I have come to believe that, for me anyway, the reason that I work to fill my home with things that are functional and beautiful and sentimental is because it truly is all about people.

I want to have people in my home. I want to make them food and pour them glasses of wine. I want them to stay in our guest room, and I want to stay up too late talking about important things that matter (and silly things that don’t). I want to welcome people with a hospitality that is unbridled. I want to form those human connections that characterize the things we own. I want people to gather together on our worn couch, I want them to eat their fill at our dining room table. I want them to feel at home in our kitchen. I hope that no one goes away from our home hungry (spiritually, physically, or mentally).

I want to be reminded daily that no matter what insurance premium I pay each month, and no matter how well I lock our doors, the material things aren’t really what I am worried about. I am worried about losing those relationships, worried about having those connections stolen from me. A loss of privacy or possessions be it from natural disaster or human maliciousness, would be a blow because it would tear down the wonderful, warm bubble that I want my home to be. When I lock the door each morning, I want to lock in all of the good and keep out all of the bad.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter which t-shirt I am pulling out of the boxes that are still largely unpacked. What matters is that every day I come home to Nathan. Every day I step in the door to see two cats waiting for me.  What if we kept in mind that the majority of things we pack into boxes each time we move aren’t really the things that give us life and happiness? What if we remembered that the memories and connections and love we create are what makes our houses into homes? What if we worried less that our house was spotless and worried more about loving people well when they are in our home? That is my goal for this year and for this new space we live in. I want to love people well, and I want to make our home a shelter from the chaos of the day-to-day.


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