I’m taking off this week from writing to move from Las Vegas to California. Thanks to all of you who’ve sent good wishes for the move. You are kind, and we are grateful. The following column is from 2007, when we moved to the desert. If I survive this move, I’ll hope to write again next week. Thank you so much for reading. — Sharon
A house, they say, is not really a home. It’s only a roof over your head. Home is the place where you keep your heart.
We moved into this place last week, my husband and I, with a crew of plumbers and painters and tile setters. It’s the fourth house we’ve shared (just us, not the crew) in the two years we’ve been married. We do not plan to move again soon. This house, Lord willing, will be our home.
Today, for the first time, I had it all to myself. My husband found a necktie and went off to work. The plumbers, painters and tile setters took our money and went off to Hawaii.
And I began walking from room to room, arranging old, familiar things in strange new surroundings, hoping to find some sense of home.
Have you ever watched a dog follow its tail, turning in a circle before settling down for a nap? There I was, the world’s biggest hound, trying to settle down.
It takes time to feel at home in a new place, whether it’s a house or a job or a marriage.
You can’t hurry time. I knew that, but I didn’t want to wait. (Hounds are known for their noses, not for their brains.) So I tried, in vain, to hurry.
A smarter woman might have started lining shelves, but shelf paper tends to make me lose my religion, so I began setting out photos of our family, our wedding, our friends.
Somehow we all looked out of place, like tourists who’d taken a wrong exit off the freeway and were about to get carjacked.
Next, I filled a vase with lilies and set them on the mantel; they smelled like wet paint.
I tried arranging a few family keepsakes in the dining room: A bowl that belonged to my late husband’s grandmother; an earthenware jug my mother used for iced tea; a plastic deviled egg tray my cousins bought at Dollar General and gave us for a wedding gift.
Nothing seemed to fit.
Finally, I grabbed a broom and went out to do what women in my family have done for generations to claim any place as their home, be it a mansion on a hill, a mill town shack or double-wide tornado target.
I swept the porch. It’s a chore seldom done at any place you don’t call your own. You might, for a friend in need, wash dishes or fold laundry. You might even look after her toddler, if she is sick as a dog with the flu. But you’ll not likely sweep off any porch unless it belongs to you.
I swept it. It felt good.
I was finishing the walk when something buzzed past my ear. A black-chinned hummingbird, tiny and gray, hovered mid-air, checking me out, then zoomed down to drink at the fountain.
“That’s my fountain,” I said, “but you’re welcome anytime.”
Home is the place where you offer hospitality. Where you can put your feet on the couch, your coffee on the table and turn your TV up too loud, until your wife asks you kindly to turn it down.
It’s a place of peace where you welcome family and friends, hummingbirds and strangers.
It’s where the sun sets every evening and rises each morning in the eyes of someone you love — even if only the eyes that look back at you from the mirror.
A home is not a house; it’s a warehouse for memories; a safe house for your heart; a half-way house for your hopes and your dreams. And sometimes, it’s a porch begging to be swept.
I might need a bigger broom.
Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove Ca 93950 or on her website: www. firstname.lastname@example.org.