I decided to write an article about ‘home’. Then I really started to think about it and found it is a complex topic. On the one hand it’s the structure you live in but there’s also the emotional element attached to it. The concept of ‘home’ may also refer to an area or region, perhaps even a state or country a person loves and relates to.
What is ‘a home’? It can be the physical place where one lives, stores personal belongings and can relax. Often this place is shared with other people, most likely family members. Some definitions of home limit a home to being a place shared with others but there are many people who live alone and don’t wish to share their special place with others. For many people a pet is an important part of their home.
A home may be a house, flat, unit or even just a room in a shared dwelling. It may be a caravan, houseboat, boat, igloo or a movable structure such as a yurt.
However a house may be just a house, no matter how fancy it is if the person or people living in it don’t feel comfortable physically and emotionally. On the other hand, a person may live in a shed and feel it is ‘home’ because it is their refuge from the rest of the world, the place where he/she has their personal stuff and feels emotionally at peace.
Pliny the Elder, born way back in 23AD, wrote, ‘Home is where the heart is.’ This is a simple but descriptive explanation of what ‘home’ is. It is the place where the people, pets and things that matter to you are. This does not mean you will always get on with those sharing your home but there is something that holds you together. Robert Frost expressed this,
‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.’
While having lots of possessions doesn’t necessarily bring happiness it is nice to have some things around you that are special and have meaning to you. These things may have little financial value and may not mean anything to others but they are important to the person who owns them. Personal items add to the feeling of ‘home’ and will have emotional value. Pictures on the wall, ornaments and books on the shelf, cushions and a rug on the sofa have psychological importance as part of ‘home’. Often they have memories of where and when a person bought them or who gave the item. Sometimes the item just looks nice and has an aesthetic appeal.
One day I started taking photos of various items in my house that were special to me. I snapped images of pottery houses I made years ago when I did a ceramics course, the wall hanging from an overseas trip, owls friends have given me as presents, the pottery lamp I bought at a garage sale, gifts from my sons and the old clock that once sat on a shelf in Grandma’s house. There were many more items that have a great deal of value and meaning to me. This activity made me realise how ‘rich’ I am in terms of possessions that are precious to me but may have little value to others. These are all part of my home and my personal history.
The activities carried out at home are important too. Cooking a tasty meal, whether it be hearty soup or something much more lavish adds to that feeling of ‘home’. Eating a meal with loved ones builds that atmosphere of ‘home’ (if only the kids would eat more vegies). Watching a DVD, television show or a clip from You Tube or playing some sort of game with other householders strengthens that bond of ‘home’. In fact the activities you share with others in your home are more important for building a sense of home than lots of expensive furniture and appliances.
Home is that place you look forward to coming back to. It is a wonderful feeling to arrive home at the end of a long day at work or after a trip away. You walk in the door, kick off your shoes and turn on the kettle. Perhaps you are greeted by family or an enthusiastic dog. Perhaps there is no one else there but you are happy to have your own space. In ‘The Wind in the Willows’ Kenneth Grahame described the experience of coming home,‘…they braced themselves for the last long stretch, the home stretch, the stretch that we know is bound to end, some time, in the rattle of the door-latch, the sudden firelight, and the sight of familiar things greeting us as long-absent travellers from far overseas.’