My good friend and I were talking the other night about our houses. From simple things like what color to paint the walls, to loftier issues like how big a house we really need. She asked a question that I’ve been thinking about ever since. What makes a house a home? How can we – as wives and mommies – make our houses comforting, inviting places that our hubby and kids want to come home to? It reminded me of the meme I participated in this summer. I’ve gone back to look at several other bloggers’ reminiscences of their childhood homes, and I think I have a few ideas of what makes a house a home. I could be way off base here, but for me it came down to 2 things.
First off, my initial instinct was wrong. I thought at first that a clean, well organized, properly decorated house would make people want to be in it. But looking at what makes lasting impressions on people, it has little to do with organization, comfortable furniture, or granite counter tops. 4-sided brick is unnecessary, and it doesn’t need to be anything fancy or trendy. It doesn’t matter if the decorator scheme is European minimalist or country-chic, or if there even is a decorator style.
I think what truly makes a house a home is the people in it. Not just the inhabitants, but the other characters who make cameo appearances or are regular cast members. It’s about the memories made together. It’s about entertaining – not in the Southern Living or Martha Stewart sense of the word, but just the fact that friends are always welcome, the door is always open. Memories are made together and relationships are cherished. Having that atmosphere within the home legitimizes each person’s contribution to the family, and those memories leave lasting impressions.
When I think back about my childhood home, I can’t really separate the building from the gatherings that happened there. When I think of the lanai it reminds me of church youth group gatherings, soccer team parties, quiet evenings with just the family watching the storms roll in. It’s hard to picture the space without the people. When I think of the dining room, I imagine my grandparents joining us for a special meal, my extended family gathered around for a celebration. The space without the people is meaningless in my mind.
The other thing that makes a house a home is consistency. That doesn’t have to mean staying in the same house forever. But celebrating the same things each year, having traditions, making each occasion special while still maintaining consistency. Christmas isn’t Christmas in my home unless my dad has a jar of olives in his stocking. The Thanksgiving table must be graced by dad’s green bean casserole, and we couldn’t manage without mom’s pumpkin pie (even though I don’t eat pumpkin pie. It still has to be there). I knew that we’d vacuum and do laundry on Saturdays. And that Friday nights we’d grill steaks or burgers. Consistency gives a sense of stability, and people blossom and grow when their home is stable.
My kids will never be moved by what size TV we have or the width of the plank in the hard wood floors that I picked out. Having their own room or even Jack and Jill sinks in the bath won’t make a lasting impact. My husband wouldn’t miss it if the window treatments weren’t coordinated with the furniture. And it doesn’t matter if our formal living room really meets the requirements of being ‘formal.’ But the consistency of family gatherings, the frequent welcoming of dear friends, and the memories made during those times will make a house a home. And those are the things that will leave imprints, for my kids and my hubby, and for me too.