Home is not about the history or hopes it holds, nor is it always synonymous with family. Instead, homes are made through the lives lived in them. The empty rooms are soulless without the sounds of laughter echoing through the walls, or the taps of feet across the floor. A house is just a thing without the lives of people filling the place to the brim with the sense of home, to the point where it pours out the windows and welcomes you from the driveway.
For the first six years of my life, I had not yet considered this, and home had one possible meaning. It was the house on Olympia Avenue, with its rooms each painted a different color, and the wild garden my father built in full bloom from May until September. But during my kindergarten year, we sold our first house. Then began the game of musical chairs that ensues when both your parents are renters.
Over the next nine years, I lived in nine different houses around Olympia. There was the condo where Mom and I shared a bed, the duplex where the landlords lived next door, the “pumpkin house” where we walked to the convenience store in summer, and so on. One house on Libby Road, one on Devon Loop. A farm, a cabin on the river, from Steamboat Island to Boston Harbor to Yelm. I grew up and said goodbye to each one like a kid says goodbye to the clothes they grow out of.
Now I think of them as places that used to be home. Each one was indeed home, if only for a short time. They were all soaked in the scents of a home-cooked meal, they all had their floors covered in pine needles in December. They all harbored our lives at point or another. But I must confess that I have little sentimental attachment to the places themselves. It doesn’t take long to get used to seeing houses empty, then full, then empty again. After seeing homes stripped bare and turned back into places that no longer belonged to me, it became my philosophy that home is the place that holds our lives, and when we move on, our homes move with us. They are created in the mundaneness of our everyday lives. Every joke, every fight, every smile and tear, every instance of regret or realization constructs our homes.
I know there will be many more houses in the future that will hold my home. And I know that each one will be made, not by the memories that linger in the past, or the dreams that speak of the future, but by me, in the moments big and small. It is this, the action of living a life, with all its emotion, its lessons, and its ups and downs, that turns a house into a home.