I have lived in many houses. The one that shapes how I think about “home” is the little pink house, which Brits would call a bungalow. Though a small house it had huge plate glass windows at the front. Two of those windows looked across the street to a field where a few horses grazed, and a wood beyond. There was another window, at a right angle to the living room window that looked down to the bay, a few miles away. The windows were taller than my parents, and about the width of the front room. It was a little house filled with light. From that house my brother and I boarded the yellow bus to go to school or walked down the street to our second school. We walked up the street to our friends’ house, and played in the woods behind their home. We created a world in the empty lot just beyond our neighbour’s house. In that house we learned about love and loss. We left to move across the country but after a year we returned, to the same community and the same house.
That little house and the community there have shaped my expectations of home. Light, love, and loss. Friends shared laughter and food. Friends supported each other through pain and celebrated the joyful moments. It was a home.
I have lived in lots of places sense then. Most of the houses I have lived have not been my choice for, as a minister, I have lived in houses provided by the church. The last house I lived in, I hated. It was dark. The floors made noise. When I was in the bedroom, I could hear the tv in the living room through the ceiling. I could go on, but I won’t. Despite the fact I hated the house, it became a home. There I experienced love and loss. From there my last child was launched into the world. There my oldest child brought her long-term partner to meet our family. There we shared meals with new friends. There we created community—people who accepted and loved us and who we accepted and loved in return.
It takes time to develop roots. I love the house I live in now, but I don’t have roots yet. Will this house become a home? We have had a few “home” moments—a Christmas together, a 25th birthday party, a wedding dress buying trip, a welcome tea party. But in the midst of a pandemic, it is hard to imagine inviting people here to share a meal and laughing around the table any time soon. I can’t imagine friends coming to stay or friends filling the house in times of loss.
What makes a house a home? Love, loss, but most of all friends. How do you build relationships in a pandemic? If it’s online, perhaps it doesn’t matter where you live. Maybe the laughter that digitally fills the study is making my house a home? Maybe the prayer that digitally happens in the dining room is creating a home. Maybe the listening that happens digitally in the living room is filling the house with love? There is definitely loss—we have all experienced losses in the last few months, but maybe through these digital connections, there is more laughter and love than I imagine.
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