For the first seventeen years of my life, I had one idea of home. If I wrote this essay a year ago, it would be very different than it is today. Over the last few months, I’ve come to realize that what makes a home is being with the ones you love, making memories and feeling comfort, not the building you fall asleep in.

We sold our home on December 23, 2019. Two days before Christmas, we said goodbye to the only home I’d ever celebrated the holidays in. My parents built that house and we loved every inch of the 10 acres we lived on. My two sisters and I ran wild outside! We climbed trees, jumped on the trampoline, made forts in the woods, played with our dogs and chickens, and grew up in the “country.” My older sister is in college and I’m leaving this August for college. The house we filled with toys and sleepovers as children was just too big and my parents decided to downsize and let another family with young children make lifetime memories there.

We moved into a rental house two days before Christmas. It was emotionally brutal. Not only were we leaving the only home we’d all lived in together, but we were missing all the Christmas traditions we’d built over my lifetime. All I could do was sit and stare at the tiny, artificial tree we’d put in the corner of our rental house, hoping to conjure up some holiday spirit. I longed for my familiar surroundings, the wood stove warming us up as we set out cookies and milk, the staircase that we’d run down on Christmas morning to see what Santa left us in the stockings that hung on the mantel.

In those days following Christmas, unpacking my clothes in my new room, I realized that it wasn’t the house made of wood, concrete and paint that I would miss. What was special about our home were the memories we made there. My home was the safety and comfort of my family welcoming me home from school. It was the noisy, messy kitchen where my family gathered to cook pancakes on Saturday morning. It was our sun filled, yellow walled playroom with dress-up costumes and a comfy couch to watch Disney movies. It was my bedroom with bubble gum pink walls and a window seat to overlook the tiny trees we planted that grew tall to give us privacy.

When I think of home, I think of celebrating birthdays, hosting barbecues and making s’mores by the fire. It’s the place I can kick off my shoes and curl up on the couch with a cozy blanket, laughing with my sisters. I realize I can do those things in any house, if I’m surrounded by my family. I will always cherish the memories of my childhood home. As my parents build our new house, we will fill it with new, wonderful memories and make that house our home.