I’ve learned the art making myself at home. It’s what people tell you to do when you walk through their doorway, especially if you are watching their children or feeding their cats for a week. Between housesitting, traveling, moving, and staying the night with friends, I’ve made myself at home in dozens of places. Once, while housesitting, I tested every bed in the house, experimenting to discover the most comfortable one.
There are certain things you do, in attempts to make yourself comfortable. Heating water on the kettle for tea, curling up with a book, or building a fire all, at times, do the trick. Once, while housesitting, I caught a nasty cold. I quickly made myself at home by using all the tissues and slumping on the couch with cold medicine for hours on end. Another time I hosted a small dinner party and borrowed table cloths and china to feed some of my best friends, feeling both hospitable and grown up. It’s a peculiar art of flexibility and courage, a combination of being comfortable enough to put your feet on the coffee table and find food in the pantry when you’re hungry.
Eventually, I pack my things and move on — to the next job, the next house, the next season. Even with this well-developed skill for making myself at home, I hardly ever, if I’m honest, feel at home.
I keep telling myself that this wandering season, one of college dorms and airports, will not last forever. It’s the in between: between my parents’ house and campus, between California and Chicago (and Colorado), between worn in friendship and budding ones, between childhood and adulthood, between singleness and, perhaps, marriage. In the in between, home feels more elusive than attainable.
One night, memories of my childhood home and ancient hurts swirled like a tornado around me, heavy and unsettling. A friend, hugging me as I cried, told me, “What is home, really? It’s the place you go and feel safe, relationships you build on trust and love. The people to come to and let yourself breath and be known. That’s home. That is where you are home.”
As I sit in this townhouse living room, for the first and last time, I remind myself of her words and the home I’m building. A place of safety that I nurture with quality time and consistent effort, made of people who known me most and love me well. Relationships I cultivate with letters and phone calls, coffee dates and afternoon walks, hard conversations and exciting news.
Because I’m sure that when I look back five, ten, twenty years from now I will not remember that Almond Orange tea that I loved so much or the mustard yellow couch that looked perfect in my apartment. It will be the person who I listened to over that cup of tea, and the hand I held while sitting on the colorful couch. I’ll gently sigh because I’ll know this: with them, wherever, I was home.