Sunday, July 21, 2013

Home and Place: House and Home

Misa's first invitation in kindergarten was from a girl who lived in a house.  Not just any house, but a "house all to herself and her family . . ." That was her exclamation when I picked her up that day.

Mama!  Zoey has that house all to herself and her family!

At first I was like, oh man poor girl.  Poor kids.

It doesn't happen anymore but when the kids were younger and I was a beginner mama, I sometimes went to that place that told me I should own a house for the sake of the kids.  A few times I bought into that "should" and Brad and I actually went house hunting.  No single house really grabbed us though - not as something we would want to call home anyway, so that was a short-lived search.

I once owned a house.  It was a quaint one, made of wood on 4th Avenue in Salt Lake City, UT across from the city cemetery, and just 1200 square feet.  When it was time to sell and move, it was also time to put away the contents and memories so that my feeling in the end, was that it was just a house.

For the last 12 years Brad and I have lived in a condo - a home - in downtown Madison.  I've learned a few things about myself and Brad and have fallen in love with our chosen lifestyle.  Within our small square footage place, we hold fast to the ritual of giving thanks before each meal, saying nighttime prayers, and kissing each other goodbye when we leave.  Paintings, photos, and other art on the walls have special meaning, and the books that line our shelves remind us that reading books, not to mention guide books for climbing and training are the sorts of things that help define our house as a home.  We honor rituals and traditions and the things we do together because like anything, they help guide our values and beliefs.  This condo isn't a traditional house, but it's definitely home for us.

Which leads me to this list of the top four things I love about living here . . .

1.  A potted garden of tomatoes, peppers and herbs gives us a "plot" to tend and nurture.
2.  We have less we have to maintain, giving us more time to play :)
3.  With mental freedom comes less stuff to own.
4.  Perhaps the best and most significant thing about living in and creating a home is the so-good-it's-true family bonding.

Of all the things I find the most appealing, it's reason number four.  When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents moved from a one-story traditional family home to a two-story house with more space including more yard along with a bigger garage.  It promoted family isolation between floors and rooms and kept us all autonomous so that behind closed doors, we didn't have to interact or even cross paths day-to-day.  It wasn't a bad thing - I mean, my siblings and I and my parents are all very close and loving.  But we all pretty much went about our way without really ever having to communicate, or even regularly see each other.

Not so in our condo.  These days, even with the prospect of Emma moving on to start living her own adventures away from us freeing up her room, Misa and John-Pio will most likely continue sharing their room.  Emma's room stores art supplies and holiday decor, and the upright piano and guitars are in there too.  It's a gathering place for creativity and performances.  The kids room is a daily mess of their own stuff, but is definitely the community room.  Every room and closet is well-used and managed but more than that, our little space that holds the five of us means we really can't escape each other.

I mean, as one example, even when I crave the bad stuff, everybody knows.  Cheesh!

We tend to these peppers like it's our community garden . . .

Witnessing plants bearing the good fruit . . .

As they take over the balcony. 

And we even have a lemon tree.  See the lemon? 

Hey!  This was us 6 years ago.  

I doubt that any of the kids' friends exclaim the same thing Misa did years ago when she realized that people actually have houses all to themselves.  That's okay with me - kids find fun whether it's in a house, condo, or an apartment.  The best thing I'd want to hear them exclaim though, is that they were raised in something much more than a physical structure - that they grew up in a home.  

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