Home Defined

In the late seventies and early eighties, I was raised in a very small rundown house placed within my family’s blueberry field in the Puyallup Washington Valley. A once beautiful four room farm house built in the early 1900’s that was cut down to size to make room for a freeway in 1937. The remaining portion consisted of the main room, indoor porch, bathroom and attic. The main room included the kitchen area, sitting area and sleeping area. A wood burning stove was our only source of heat, the way we cooked our meals, and how we heated water for dishes, laundry, and baths. We used kerosene lamps for light and we had an old black and white television set connected to a car battery to entertain us. I recall several times not being able to finish watching a television program due to the battery dying; we would have to wait until dad recharged it so that we could turn the television back on. We stored non-perishable food items in the cupboards on the indoor porch along with all the canning jars of left-over food and blueberries; blueberry jam, blueberry jelly, blueberry spread, blueberry pie filling, dried blueberries, and much more. With no electricity, the refrigerator in the main room was where I housed my toys and perishable food such as cottage cheese, sour cream, milk, though it was the dreaded powdered milk that we used most often, and the like was purchased in small quantities on the day we would partake of them. The walls were discolored from age, the smoke from the wood stove, and my parent’s bad indoor smoking habit. The floors were made of old linoleum that was ripped in different places, especially the center of the main room where I practiced roller skating on all of those rainy days. The bathroom was a dark, cold space right off of the main room, which made bathing an almost impossible task in the winter. I remember having to bathe in a small tin bath in the main room next to the wood stove during those miserable months of the year. The attic above it all housed boxes of stuff that we kept over the years, which all became ruined when the roof began to cave in and the rain flooded most of what was in there. The house’s exterior was just as damaged due to the normal wear and tear of a house that was reaching its one-hundredth birthday with very little maintenance and upkeep. This house owned by my grandmother, was supposed to be temporary until my dad was able to get on his feet and had the ability to get us into a better one; however it was not until my dad’s last year of life that he finally succeeded in leaving that poor old miserable house.  Though the house I grew up in was small in size and lacking much, my home on the other hand was larger than life. A house is merely a structure, whereas a home is where the heart resides and we will find that for many they can have one without the other.
A house is simply a structure for people to live, to eat and to sleep in. The purpose of it is to provide protection from outdoor dangers like bad weather, wild animals and crime. Houses typically present the culture, style of living, and the traditions of the people who live in them. Houses come in all shapes and sizes and they are built out of numerous different materials depending on factors such as the location, climate, and availability of the building materials. A house is typically constructed with wood, steel, brick, stone or concrete, however in places like Northern Africa, Mexico, and Southern United States one will find some of the houses are built of Adobe, which is a mixture of sand, clay, and water. In the article entitled Back to Earth I found that, “in these extreme desert climate areas, ranging from extremely hot days to unbearably cold nights the adobe bricks have the ability to withstand a large amount of heat before leaking into the house by absorbing it within the walls. So by the time the temperature begins to drop at night, the walls will start warming the inside of the home since it takes a full day for the heat to permeate through the adobe brick keeping those living inside comfortable all day long” (Smith).  A house is not limited to people. We create little houses for our pets to sleep in and build large barns for our animals living on the farm. Wild animals, not fortunate enough for a person to create such a space, make shelters of their own with the materials that are available to them.
A home is where the heart resides. The character Dorothy in the movie Wizard of Oz was not clicking the heels of her ruby red slippers telling all those in munchkin land there is no place like her house because of what it was made of or that it protected her from bad weather, mostly because she would not have been in Oz if it had, but she was repeating the words, “there is no place like home, there is no place like home, there is no place like home” because of what home meant to her. Dorothy’s home was not perfect, in fact she found herself wishing to be living far from it, somewhere over the rainbow. Through her experiences in the Land of Oz, she is taught valuable lessons about home, one of which she confesses to Glinda, “if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with” (Wizard of Oz). A home is where one grows up, a venue where one finds love for the first time, the corner of the world that one experiences hope, a site of laughter, and the point on a map that one’s dreams begin. A home is a place of learning and a safe place to practice taking risks. A home is a place where you do not have to pretend you are something you are not, a place one can be who they really are and a place to find out what that is. A home can be as simple as a mother’s lap or a father’s arms. A home is a shelter of safety that one can return to again and again physically or in memory. Friend and blogger Jamie Huster describes this idea of home best in her recent blog post entitled Farewell Portland:
Portland has historically been a bittersweet place for me, over the last year it has really taken a hold of my heart. The reason I moved to Portland was for residency, most of my waking time was spent at work, and a lot of my stuff remained packed up because I never really had a chance to settle in.  Home didn’t really feel like home, it was just the place I slept between shifts. There were quite a few struggles during residency, and I never got to appreciate Portland for what it really was. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I actually started getting to know the community. I learned about pok-pok, Touche, bicycling the esplanade, St. Johns, food carts, Andina, Clyde Common, batting cages, snowshoeing, and the wonders of the nude beach at Sauvie Island. I finally unpacked my belongings and my house became my little family’s home. I found friends in places I’d never imagine, ones that will see me through to the bitter end. Now Portland is my home. I’m a Nevada girl and always will be, but it only serves to add to the culture of Portland. (Doc of the Day)
A house and a home are not equally defined and for those thousands of Americans that are living without a house, are they really homeless or would those millions who are living in broken houses due to child abuse and domestic violence actually be those with such a label? In response to what a home and to what a house is I would have to say that it is a man, woman or child living under the evil of another human being that keeps one from experiencing a home life and are technically speaking homeless. They may have a shelter over their head and may stay there because there is no where else to go, but there is no love and no hope residing within those cold, dark walls and the only dreams one will find are those dreams of the days that the violence stops and the nightmare ends. A person who is without a house may not find shelter from the cold, rain and wind, however, can still find the comfort of home within when placed with those he or she loves and cares for. I knew a family who were without a house and found shelter inside a tent in the woods. The mom and her children stayed there a few months until they were able to earn enough money and had the ability to find an affordable home, but for the time they lived in the tent it was their home. The child who is now grown would never share that he was ever homeless, for he was in the safety and care of his mother, older sister and brother. It was not until he reached adulthood that he even knew that he was without a house and thought of the time living in the tent as a big long family adventure!
The house I grew up in was torn down and the hundreds of blueberry trees were ripped out of the ground nine years ago this summer and since replaced with a modern day makeshift housing development, so I am no longer able to return to that place. But there are times that I sit back and close my eyes; I can still smell the smoke coming from the wood burning stove. I can still taste the blueberries that have been simmering all day long, even though I avoid eating them as an adult. I can see the smiles on my families faces at the end of a football game that we watched cuddled together tightly on the couch trying to view the small black and white television. I can hear the words of my grandmother telling me yet another story of days past as we clean the recently picked blueberries. I can imagine the feeling of softness of my mom’s warm touch as I climb on her lap and the roughness of my dad’s hard-working hands as he wraps his arms around me.  I remember the good days full of laughter, hopes, dreams and love. I remember the bad days full of tears, frustration and anger. All of those moments and all of those days are with me forever, wherever I may go as a home is where the heart resides and my heart is inside of me.
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