Home is where our story starts. I remember playing house when I was a little girl. I started in a fort made of blankets. Mamaw and Papaw’s living room was my kingdom and I was the Queen. As I grew, I moved in to a treehouse. Escaping into the ladder of branches, I settled in between two large limbs under a canopy of green to read, dream and gaze out over the world.
When I was twelve, the Holly Hobbie wallpaper enveloping my bedroom walls made way for bulletin boards and posters of my favorite rock bands. In a tiny college dorm room, my first home away from home, I learned to share a small space, especially the precious real estate inside a mini-fridge. I’ll never forget the address of my first apartment; the number 802 will always conjure up happy memories of dear friends gathered on mismatched furniture.
We long for a domain to make our own. I don’t have a treehouse anymore, but I do have a collection of tree branches. I’ve moved them across the country and back as we’ve zigged and zagged from state to state over the last two decades. No matter which house we moved into, it never really felt like home until my decorative sticks were in place. In a Minneapolis bungalow, they were curtain rods to two fledgling newlyweds. They were strung with white lights as a makeshift Christmas tree in a Columbus condo. In Oregon, they were arranged in a floor vase, weighted by a rock collection. They added charm to an open floor plan in our Kansas ranch house. Those special branches were the last to be placed inside each moving truck, and the first items off.
What makes your house a home? For me, it’s more than sticks—it’s the proof of life and love inside: piles of teenaged-sized shoes by the front door; dog hair on the couch; growth, marked on the kitchen door jamb with hash marks; a note in the handwriting of my sweetheart; the soundtrack of my days—laughter and the fuss of children, drums from the basement and the swish of the washing machine. It may not look like a magazine-worthy spread, but it’s home.
If we are blessed, home is where Mom teaches how to make her famous sour cream coffee cake and Dad takes time to dance around the living room with you standing on his toes. Home is where we pose for prom pictures on the porch and blow out candles on our birthdays.
For us here in West Chester and Liberty, home is where the train whistles us to sleep. Home is where we know how to eat our chili with a fork and excavate chocolate chunks from our ice cream. Home is the porch light at the end of a hilly and winding road.
I’ve lived here in West Chester for almost two years. After many years away from my hometown of Cincinnati, my family finally had the opportunity to move back. I’m learning that my treasured tree limbs are a reminder of a connectedness to something bigger than me. Making a home is less about branches and more about roots. When we reach out and dig into a community, we grow. I recently found the perfect spot for my branches in our 70s two-story. It’s official—I’m home.