I just finished reading A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, and I highly recommend it. It’s a beautifully written narrative of an ordinary, grouchy old man’s end of life, but you get the benefit of seeing behind the mask. The author paints a touching picture of this man’s broken, beautiful soul. I believe choosing gratefulness is key to a fulfilled life, so I’m going to get all sappy on you today and share the secrets that make a house a home.
One section, near the end of the book, struck me, and not exactly as the author intended, I’m sure. The section is really about loving someone and growing old with them. There is beauty in those reflections, don’t get me wrong, but as I am in the stage of wearing down my house and causing all the imperfections that come over time, the obvious part of the analogy rings true for me. Rather than stressing about the breakage happening in my home, I’m embracing the “secrets” (quirks or wear, if you will) that make a house a home.
“Loving someone is like moving into a house…At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all of this belong to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, and the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside, which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the secrets that make it your home.”
Dan and I bought this house out of necessity, not because we immediately loved the house. We were expecting our first son and living in a one bedroom apartment which we had downsized to after we sold our three bedroom house. To say the apartment was cramped is an understatement.
When we looked at our house, all we saw were the gems: FIVE bedrooms (we really only needed 2!), woods in the backyard (no neighbors behind or even the chance for neighbors!), HUGE bathroom upstairs (no more tiny apartment bathroom!), full basement (room for beer/wine making, hobbies, office, etc.), huge dining area (our 4 person table was dwarfed!), and the biggest winner: the largest kitchen we’ve ever had.
I was enamored by the perfectness and greatness of our house at first. Dan and I poured our blood, sweat, and tears into fixing up our home. We painted into the wee hours of the morning for more weekends than I care to count, and the more we worked on our home; the more we loved it. It has our fingerprints in every room, and that makes it lovely to us.
But time changes things. New paint loses it’s freshness, innocent (and not so innocent) spills stain the carpet, and chips/dinges in the wall come from happy play.
The hard part about pouring your work into your home is seeing it get damaged as time goes on. It is easy to hold on to Pinterest worthy images of a house and think that is what your home should look like. If I look to social media it tells me that my home should look like this:
Gah, that home is beautiful! I like it; I won’t lie! That’s not a real-life home though, and it is not the standard for normal families. Life is messy. Kids are messy, and it is ok for your home to age with your family.
Here is what I think a home is:
…A hallway filled with scuff marks
Proof of many hockey/soccer/football/tag games with friends and parents. Those are memories etched into our walls. And yes, we used to let them use real pucks in the house. They hit too hard now to let that continue. 🙂
…A stove-top that might never come totally clean
It’s been used to feed hungry mouths over and over and over. The crud that no one (ahem, me!) had time to clean thoroughly has been baked on over and over and over. And yet, that faithful friend keeps right on firing up and cooking food for my family. It’s like it doesn’t even care that it’s dirty…
…A creaky spot at the end of the stairs
I avoid this spot every morning I come downstairs to not wake up my family. In fact, it’s second nature to avoid the creak. Dan calls me a ninja because I can go up and downstairs absolutely silently. I do believe I’m the only one in the family that possess this trait.
…A broken counter-top that still functions perfectly well
Yes, I wish my kids hadn’t snapped off the edge of our brand new counter tops before I could re-glue them. It looks kind of jankity, but you know what? When you turn the faucet handles, water comes out! When you wash your hands in the sink, the dirty water goes down the drain! You can even fix your hair, put on your make-up, or change a kids clothes on the counter and it still holds things up! It doesn’t even collapse. Ugly, kind-of broken fixtures still work.
As my kids get older and my home ages under their growing feet and hands. I have learned to appreciate my home’s quirks and love it’s secrets. I know which window I can open when it’s raining to let in the fresh, clean air; which kitchen doors creak and which bathroom drawers are silent; which door will lock you out and the window that will let you back in. I love my beautiful, well-worn home for all its quirks and secrets, and she only gets better with time.
What secrets do you know about your house? Have you stopped to be grateful for the quirks of your home? What makes your house a home?