Home. The simplest of words, yet one of the most difficult to narrow down and define. A word we all once defined through crayons and construction paper in the first grade- stick figure family members standing outside a house with a smoked filled chimney. A bright yellow, smiling sun in the corner of the page with sunglasses on. White picket fences.
I am coming to find that as each year passes, my idea of home shifts and expands. Over time, what I once was able to define as a concrete place- our house in the middle of the street- isn’t so concrete after all, it’s the feeling that is attached to it. Comfort, ease, familiarity and simple pleasure.
Walking through the back door each day after school to find Mom in the kitchen and dinner waiting for us on the table. Waking up in my teenage bedroom painted Pepto-Bismol pink, posters of boy bands staring down at me as I sat night after night on my bed writing mercilessly in my diary. How I know which family member is coming up the stairs based on the sound their feet make on the wooden floor. Slow summer evenings on our backyard patio, the sound of neighborhood kids playing off in the distance. The noise of the backdoor slamming and the ‘bang’ of the wooden slab on garage floor signaling someone’s return. Long, quiet Sunday morning talks with Mom and Dad over coffee in the living room before deciding to start the day.
For me, our little house on Central Street isn’t home unless it is filled with my four other family members rummaging around. Time moves on (a little bit too fast sometimes), whether we like it or not. Mobility and change is part of the natural course of life. Childhood bedrooms become guest rooms, Saturday afternoons become quieter and quieter, kitchen chairs once occupied by 5 every night, reduced to two. It is hard to know what the future holds; where we will be years from now. What I do know is that the well-known saying, “Home is where the heart is,” rings truer and truer to me as each year passes.
If home is where the heart is, then home is being surrounded by my family and friends. Sitting at the dinner table with my family long after the meal is finished and the fact that somehow, we always seem to be the last people in the restaurant. Hugs that last a little too long and lazy Sunday’s that always seem to pass too fast with a boy I have grown to adore. Sitting crossed legged on my apartment floor with a handful of friends that, over time, have become family.
One day it will click. One day as I walked back to my apartment, crossing the wobbly bridge covering the Chicago River, it clicked. Home is natural, familiar and without question. A sturdy feeling waiting for you at the end of the day—one you can return to at any moment. Home is a place that feels right. That feeling deep inside your heart—and you will know when you have found it.