Making a House a Home

Yesterday I walked through our house for the last time.
Its empty walls spoke nothing of the family that once lived here—no pictures, no artwork, no stuffed animals.
Nor did the hollow-sounding steps that echoed through each room.
Every noise resonated loudly as I opened each door to check every closet and cupboard for any forgotten item.
The corner where the piano sat was strangely empty.
There would be no singing or playing here anymore.
People lived here.
My people.
My family.
How had we made this house our home?
Memories poured through my mind.
But now the house stood empty.

How do you wrap up the feelings from a house where you lived for twenty-five years?
Where your family worked, struggled, grew, loved, laughed and cried together?
Is it lost inside the building?
Did that make it a home?
But my heart whispered back, Home is not a place.

I stood outside looking at the flowers and bushes.
Kept alive by my daily watering. 
For years I dragged hoses here and there.
Finally setting up PVC pipes and levers.
Turn this one on. This one off.
Every day.
My husband reminded me the new owners may not want the plants.
I did not stop watering.
Maybe they would.
I couldn’t watch all that hard work of the boys droop before my eyes.
Maybe the new owners would appreciate the lilac bush. 
It bloomed three times this year!
Its shriveled bloom still hanging from a twig.
Or the wild flowers covering our front yard.
What color!
Attracting hummingbirds, tit-mouse, finches, and butterflies.
I didn’t have my cup of tea in my hand on this day,
But every previous morning, I would watch, water and sip with the morning’s start.
Did that make it a home?
But my heart whispered back, Home is not a job.

I checked the barn.
The compost pile, missing the freshly raked barn scraps, appeared strangely forlorn.
The horse gate stood closed, clean, but empty and silent. 
Not even flies greeted me when I opened the barn door.
Did they know we had left?
The garage stood like a discarded shell.
Pegboards hung with empty holders on blank walls.
No tools or supplies waited there.
No forgotten projects.
No discarded scraps of wood or pipe or tool or fencing.
Nothing to show anything had ever taken place.
I looked hard to see a clump of dirt in the corner.
Did that make a home?
But my heart whispered back, Home is not a project—finished or not.

The pull-up bar and the climbing rope looked deserted in the yard.
There would be no more contests to see who was champion today.
The tire swing hung limply from its three-inch rope on the big oak tree.
No one would swing from it again.
No squeals of fear mingled with ecstasy would be heard—from a child new to its pleasure.
I looked up into the stately branches of that oak tree even though I knew I would no longer glimpse a piece of red high in the tree limbs where my youngest often straddled a branch and perched with no thought of time or responsibility.
My glance took me to check the boys’ fort. 
Designed with careful planning for safety yet adventure.
It looked condemned in its emptiness.
That was where I had found a discarded knife blade, retrieved from the trash and given new life by one of the boys.

No more daily trips to the pond to swim.
Or zip-line contests.
Or boat runs.
Did that make a home?
But my heart whispered back, Home is not a contest over who is better.

Would the winter frogs still sing their chorus?
They’d stopped instantly, as if by cue, if someone walked too close to their pond.
In spring, the black ring around the pond spoke of where the mass of tadpoles rested on the pond’s edge.
Each spring, as if by some mysterious force calling them, toads would migrate from the pond to their more permanent home in my garden where insects abounded. 
Their mass movement gave the illusion of moving ground beneath our feet.
Did that make a home?
But my heart whispered back, Home is not an event.

My tomatoes, struggling a bit this year from neglect, still held a few tomatoes.
No more picking or canning. 
No mad dash to prepare and preserve them fresh before spoiling.
Did that make a home?
But my heart whispered back, Home is not a place to eat.

A hawk screeched overhead.
I instinctively looked for any chicks lose for it to snag.
Their absence alone created a lump in my throat.
Both the chickens and ducks had been sold weeks ago.
The rooster’s call missed through the night.
The cackling hens noticeably absent during the day.
The quiet making another hole.
Did that make a home?
But my heart whispered back, Home is not some filler for a hole.

I breathe deeply and faced my vehicle.
Glad I hadn’t left the engine running.
How did I think this would only take a few moments? 
How do you wrap twenty-five years of living into one final look?

I heaved a great sigh.
And opened the car door.
I waited as the fine ashes drifted over the car seat—a reminder that fires still raged and home evacuations were still close.
What problems would we face where we were going?
I shifted the car into gear to return to where my family was staying, 
And realized—
I wasn’t leaving my home.
Not even leaving the memories.
I would take the memories with me.
I was going home.
Home is where my people are.

Home is present tense, not past.
Home is where your family is.

A home isn’t a place, 
a job, 
a project, 
a contest, 
a place to eat, 
nor some filler for a hole

I wiped a tear from my face.
I was driving home.
Where my family is.

Home is where your heart is.

A reminder, too,  of what awaits for me in heaven.
Does my heart rest there?

Displaying all 2 comments

Yes, I'm very behind, but had to comment on this special piece. I know how hard it is to pack up and totally leave a place, but each new house did become home. Are you home yet? I'm sure you've worked hard to make your house in Oklahoma a home for your family. It just takes time for our heart to sometimes catch up. I think the home I cried over the most was when we left Jamaica, knowing we would never be back. And seeing pictures of our street now, I don't think I want to go back, will just hold the wonderful memories of two glorious years.

This is just plain beautiful Sonya. My tears mingled with yours over the miles. Love, Helen

I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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