I have a little plaque in my kitchen that I can see when I come in the door that reads: “Take a deep breath. You’re home now.”

My house isn’t anything fancy. I don’t have granite countertops. It needs a good repainting. I don’t have high-end appliances. It needs some landscape work – badly. There are mismatched floors. But it is HOME. It’s MY home.

Home – so many things have been said about it. So many book titles, movie lines and quotes: “Fly away home.” “You can’t go home again.”  “There’s no place like home.”

My home is where we have gathered many items, both bought and inherited, that mean much more than the thing itself. The 46 masks we have hung on our foyer wall, that Bill and I started collecting after a 1987 trip to New Orleans. The cross collection, hanging over the fireplace wall, that we have taken in from all over the US and Ireland. The Fiestaware dishes, featuring every color of the rainbow plus a few colors not in the rainbow. Handmade Native American pottery, brought back from a trip out west. The thousands of record albums and CD’s that provide the beauty and richness of all genres of music. Seashells, gathered from trips to the beach over the years. The hand painted Italian tile table in our kitchen that was Bill’s mother’s. The African artwork and handmade baskets and figurines I inherited after the death of a relative who lived for a time in Africa.

These things don’t have meaning in and of themselves; we create the meaning that we get from them. It is the people and the experiences and the memories that make a house a home.  It is the times shared, both good and bad, that make it home.

My home is where I fell in love with my husband again. It’s where we went through our son and daughter’s teen years and launched them into adulthood. It’s where we have cooked many delicious meals despite not having a gourmet kitchen. It’s where we laughed and talked over dinners. It’s where we have loved and lost several cats. It’s where we have planted flowers and shrubs, and then when one died, replanting because we have hope that something will survive. It’s where we have sipped bottles of wine with friends over laughter (and tears).

And then there are the hard times. Waking up in the middle of the night to wipe off a sick child’s hot face. Worrying about finances and whether you have enough money to pay next month’s bills. Secret fears about whether you will make it in the new career, and then finally sharing those fears with a loved one. Trying to guide your child through stormy teenage romances, and feeling as if you really have no control at all, and remembering that you yourself were once in the midst of a stormy teen romance. Weeping together over the death of a parent, or grandparent. And finally realizing that you can make it through adversity with faith, hope and love, and just take it one day at a time, and you become a stronger person.

It is not the things that make any house a home. Not an expensive tile backsplash. Not an $80,000 theatre room. Not a perfectly matched designer interior. All the finest things in the world will not bring happiness, and more importantly, contentment, peace, and fulfillment . As Goethe said: “Be he a king or a peasant, he is happiest who finds peace at home.”

My house isn’t perfect. It’s a little cluttered. It isn’t even always clean. But inside these walls, under the roof over our heads, there is life, and love, and laughter. All the “things” that make a house a home.

So take a deep breath. You’re home now.

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