Tessa Rose Niemer

Olympia High School

2011 Scholarship Winner
First Place

I believe in Birkenstocks, chicken noodle soup, toaster ovens, and the feel of a sweatshirt just warm out of the dryer. I believe in holiday-themed fuzzy socks, the hum of a small room’s space heater, and I believe in the soothing rhythm of rain pattering against my bedroom window. I believe in the fresh-golden scent of pancakes cooking on the Sunday morning griddle and Spongebob Squarepants cartoons. I believe in what makes up my home.

Ever since I was three, I have shared my Sunday morning pancakes and Christmas-themed fuzzy socks with two households. Both were—and remain—vastly different. One belongs to my mother, one to my father, but both are a place I consider home. My father’s cozy apartment remains my haven of peace and quiet, scratched Jimi Hendrix records, really good hash browns, and, I have to admit, the better of the Sunday-morning pancakes. My mother’s house belongs to a quirky artist, scattered crossword puzzles, and lipstick-rimmed tea mugs sometimes filled with either paintbrushes or commonly misplaced reading glasses.

Home is comfort. Comfort is reading in bed while the rain falls on my roof; it’s wearing my “hippie shoes” and sporting ’80’s themed dance attire. Comfort is being true to your personality and having the confidence to be the eccentric dork that no one sees. If home is where the heart is, I’d like to be sure that my home is a place where I can let myself wear Christmas socks in May.

When I was younger, I would often get caught staying up way past the hour of decency reading the most recent book of my interest. This meant using towels to stuff the crack below my bedroom door to hide the light my camping lantern produced—but this proved useless if I accidentally dropped the lantern, causing shivers of sound to reach my mother’s nearby bedroom. I became accustomed to the noise of my mother’s hasty footsteps as she grouchily got out of bed, harshly turning her doorknob as she reached my bedroom in a mere two steps. If she had been going downstairs to make herself a midnight sandwich, her footsteps would have been nimble and pinched as she prodded down the stairs in her one-two one-two pattern. It’s funny how even things as simple as the pattern of footsteps, or the turning of a doorknob, can identify those around you as easily as the familiarity of their voice, or the sound of their body language.

That’s what home is, though. Home is having comfort in who you are; home is being a dork and wearing socks completely out of season. Home is recognizing the pattern of footsteps; it’s freshly cooked pancakes and reading too late. Home is the sound of body language. My home isn’t a singular unit; my home lies between and within two households. A house is where you live—but a home is where your heart is.