Of the six one word prompts offered for Writing 101 today, I quickly chose home, I think because my initial reaction is that I have always felt blessed with a happy home and it could be instructive to explore why. I live alone in my current home. Some might say that it is just a house. But it is the place where I sleep except when out of town, eat breakfast almost every day, and lunch and dinner many days. It is the place where I have hosted guests for meals, out-of-town friends and siblings for overnight visits, and spent very enjoyable time with my son when he was in town visiting. I have a comfortable recliner which I tend to use every morning to scan the RSS feeds on my iPad while drinking my morning coffee (my version of my dad’s paper left over from the night before). I have a desk with a computer where I spend a lot of time, reading, writing, paying bills, pursuing other interests. There is a TV in the family room, often on during the evening news and for one of my other vices: The Big Band Theory. I rarely watch much more, although the TV news is also on most mornings during breakfast. So I call my house home because it is a place where I am very comfortable and feel secure.
My current home will soon hold the record for the place where I have spent the most consecutive years. My parents house lacked space but more than made up for it with companionship. I was one of ten siblings; we didn’t all reside there at one time with the possible exceptions of some summer months, but it was nonetheless a boisterous, happy place for the most part. We each had our chores: my six sisters had weekly dusting, mopping, and straightening chores; my brothers and I kept the basement swept, the lawn mowed, and later acquired some exemptions by working paper routes, although we all helped with the dishes at least two nights per week, no exceptions. The house had only two bedrooms on the main floor, one for my parents and the other for usually the gender with the youngest addition. We had only one bathroom, which was a perennial problem but also a good challenge for exercising self constraint and being mindful of others. The second floor of the house had the equivalent of four bedrooms, but initially they had only floors; they bordered on open rafters with the plaster and laths exposed. From early on, we were warned of the dangers of playing in the rafters, particularly of stepping off the floor joists. And in winter, that part of the house got cold. Although it was heated with a coal fired furnace, and my dad faithfully got up every morning at 5:30 to rekindle the fires, with no insulation on the second floor we huddled under feather beds and didn’t dawdle getting dressed. We always ate our evening meal as a family in the dining room then followed with a family rosary in the living room. Those with KP duties had to find their own time for prayer later. By the time I reached college age, I helped my father rewire the house–it originally had a 30 ampere service entrance, which meant you could use an iron or a hair dryer, but not both, without blowing a fuse–under the direction of one of my uncles who was a licensed electrician. Then the rafters were insulated, walls installed, and the “attic” made into real living space.
I left that home at age 13 to go to the seminary–a boarding school across town. For a few months in my junior year, I returned to live at home since the new dorm on campus needed immediate repairs and those of us who lived close by were asked to commute. When I left the seminary after one year of college, I again lived at home for two years while I worked and went to school. But then it was off to graduate school in Kansas, getting married and establishing our own home initially in a mobile home, disparagingly called a trailer, on the edge of tornado alley–that led to some exciting moments; then we moved to NJ where we lived in an apartment for one year before buying our first real house. I sold that house and bought one in Denver 14 years later. Then the company moved my work to Boulder, so I again changed houses. In a five year stretch after that, I moved five times as I went to Chicago for a new opportunity, returned to Colorado living for a year in the high country, and finally settled where I am today.
The common thread in all the homes I’ve lived in is that they always felt like home, in part I think because I took the time to establish my nest. Yeah, there were lots of fixin and updatin activities that initially I loved doing, but soon got my fill of. My house right now, for example, has vinyl trim on several windows that was broken in a hail storm, almost a year ago. I’ve had several window companies here to give estimates and all want to replace the whole window, frame and all. That seems wasteful to me, not to mention expensive. What has happened to craftsmanship? So I’m thinking one of these days I will go buy some of the PVC trim I have specked out at Home Depot, get a mitre box and cut the needed corners, and do the job myself. One of these days… And I still love my home.