I have experienced what 36% of all children in the United States have: a tragic breakup of my married parents, the phenomenon called divorce. My mother and my father signed the papers when I was very young, and ever since then I’ve lived in not just one, but two homes. Both my mother and father have dragged me and my twin brother to many different houses, but there have only been a small amount that I’ve called home.

Back then, I wasn’t completely sure what a home was. It was the word that my parents used to refer to their specific apartments, but since they both used the same word, I could barely decipher which one they were referring to each time. Does Daddy mean Daddy’s house or Mommy’s house? As I got older, it was easier to discern between the two, and while both of them were certainly my houses that I swapped to and from every other week, those two apartments didn’t feel like home. Until I met my father’s girlfriend and her kids, who happened to live in the apartment behind ours.

I cannot tell you how many memories I made in the five months of spending my time there. I recall playing with her kids, specifically the youngest; we would hit each other with our plastic swords and run around the house like crazy people. I remember our first Christmas there, when we got a spider man web shooter that could spray awesome water webs. On top of it all, it was the place where big news was revealed: my father was engaged to his partner. They became my family that year.

Since then, I’ve moved to lots of new houses, and all of them took some adjusting to get used to. Some were home, and some weren’t, but I learned that home isn’t just a building to shelter you and keep you warm; it’s the incredible connection a person shares with others. It’s the mutual space that a family cherishes; the communion that brings people closer together; the mark of history permanently left on someone’s special place, or in my case, places. Even if it’s simply just a single room apartment you share with your best friend, or a box on the street you share with your closest kin. In the end, the bond and union that you hold dearly with others is what really makes a house a home.