There was a red brick house on a corner with best friends on either side. There were pocket doors, a garden and a barn where I imagined all sorts of make believe worlds. There was the playroom with the busy, hexagonal patterned wallpaper. There was a dent in my parents’ mint green walls that looked like a small spoon. There was the dining room filled with the abundance of mom’s green thumb which incited real terror the first time I saw Little Shop of Horrors. There was the living room where I put on plays and concerts and pitched forts. That was my home until we moved.
We didn’t move by choice. My childhood and my security were sold. 369 Main Street was the only place I had ever called “home,” and I had to watch as a new fence appeared, parts of the barn changed, and the garden disappeared…all signs of an occupant who was not my family. Somewhere in the keepsakes my mom guards, there is a notebook page entitled How Do You Hug A House? I asked myself that question over and over, trying to come to terms with saying goodbye to a home. It was then I disregarded all kitsch touting “home is where the heart is.” It was then I began to understand one aspect of the complex relationship humans have with the built environment. It was then the seed was planted for me to study architecture, thinking I could house people in a comfort I had come to understand via loss.
Time passed. I decided I didn’t want to be an architect. My parents finally found a light filled lot more worthy of the term “home,” but it was never the home I had tried so hard to embrace. Returning for the holidays after quite some time away, I was surprised at the comfort I found in the visit. There were little tokens of memories in these new nooks and corners: the green of the icebox where I used to keep my softball glove, the tattered pages of cookbooks bursting at the bindings from mom’s innovations, my morning teacup, the brass bakers, the family photos, the family table… as if the memories had become a maze through a museum of my upbringing.
This is not meant to be a materialistic or woe-is-me reflection of the holiday season. Moving so frequently fostered an ability to detach and to adapt, which has in turn fostered my desire and ability to travel far and wide. My reflection is rather meant to be a quiet, questioning stroll through the memories and the meanings of home.
No matter where we lived or how far I am from my family, one thing remains true: my mom will be busy in the kitchen! Many ovens and kitchens later, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen those fresh-from-the-oven, chocolate cookies lining brown paper. My mom and I may differ on our ingredient choices, the strength of our coffee or the complexity of our recipes, but I find comfort and inspiration in her loving kitchen shuffle all the same.