July 3, 2014

The Difference Between a House and a Home

Last week I spent some time in my hometown and during my stay, we stopped by my great-grandparents' house. This is the house where they lived for nearly as long as I can remember...it's the house where I spent countless Christmas mornings eating a huge country breakfast as well as other holidays as well as ordinary days.

They haven't lived in the house for a few years. My great grandma passed away in the summer of 2003 and my great grandpa died in 2010. Since then, their sons (my grandpa and his brother) have been renting the house to various tenants. The most recent tenant just moved out and since the house was vacant, I wanted to go see it.

Driving the familiar route to the house, I almost convinced myself for a second that my great grandparents would be there. I know this is crazy, but when something is so familiar to you as being one way, it can be hard for our mind to accept that things have changed.

When we first pulled into the driveway, the house looked the same. Then, on closer inspection I began to see all the little things that made it perfectly clear my grandparents hadn't been there in awhile. The yard, which they were meticulous about caring for, was littered with little sticks and a few scattered weeds. My grandma's hanging plants were gone and so were her 2-liter bottle whirlygigs. There was no compost pile, no garden. No Mercury in the driveway.

Things only became more obvious when we walked inside the house. The previous tenant had moved out and left a ton of his stuff, which was scattered from room to room. Walls had been re-painted in colors my grandma would have hated. Floors re-carpeted in a variety of patterns and styles. I went from room to room, looking for anything that might be a sign of the life that my grandparents had lived.

Their bedroom, which had been turned into a child's room, was painted teal green with purple accents. The carpet was a modern berber, unlike the plush psuedo-shag that had once lined the walls.

I opened the door to what had been their bedroom closet and saw that its floor was still covered with the carpet I remembered. Now if you aren't sentimental or kind of a germaphobe, this next part might not make sense to you.

I got inside the closet and sat on the floor. I felt the carpet under my fingertips. It felt the same. I leaned down until my face was inches away from the floor and sniffed...it smelled the same. For just that second, nothing in the house had changed. My grandpa could have easily been in his chair, reading his Bible. My grandma might have been in the kitchen, scrambling eggs with a mess of poke sallet (which she knew I loved). The local a.m. radio station might have been playing so they could hear the obituaries and see which families they needed to call on to pay condolences.

But then they were gone again...the house was different and I was left having an allergy attack with a nose full of dust mites.

There's a big difference between a house and a home. A house is a place where you live. And I will always think of that particular house as my great grandparents' house. But it's painfully obvious it is no longer their home.

A home is a place where you come alive. My grandparents weren't alive in that closet...that's not why the smell meant something to me. They are alive in my heart. And that's why it's just as easy to for them to be at home in my heart, because they are still alive to me in there.

We might live lots of places in our lifetime, but our true home is not somewhere that can be seen or smelled. Home is where the truest part of us resides.

[images via flickr Creative Commons license  12, 3, 4, 5]