Dawn had not yet broke one winter morning as I felt myself slip into that half-awake, half-asleep state of consciousness. Warmth and muffled voices drifted down the hallway into the bedroom.
For a split second I was a kid again, pretending I was still asleep, stealing snippets of my Mom and Gramma whispering to each other at the kitchen table as they sipped coffee. I could almost smell the coffee. I could almost hear my Gramma pulling the waffle maker out of the bottom drawer.
I pulled myself deeper into my bed, burying under the blankets, fighting the urge to open my eyes.
Just a flutter.
An orange glow swept across the bedroom from the neighbor’s floodlight, just the way it does when the ground is coated with snow. The house was still, save those muffled voices. I struggled to push myself out of bed, instantly feeling the slight chill in the air as I escaped my blanket cocoon. Bare feet carried me across the icy wood floors to the living room where my husband slept, the remote teetering on his hand.
This is home, perhaps reluctantly. This two-bedroom, side-by-side duplex my husband and I have rented for nearly 4 years. Where we sleep each night with our three children. The duplex built by the father of our landlord in the 1960’s, fully equipped with the original yellow stove and pink bathroom fixtures. Space is tight and the yard is non-existent. It is not ideal in many ways.
But the walls echo with baby giggles and six-year-old imagination run wild. The dining room has held thousands of meals. The bedrooms have absorbed hundreds of bedtime stories and prayers. This space is home because we fill it with ourselves. This space is home because we’ve made it home.
The memories that occupy the sleepy haze between dreaming and awakening are not of concrete places. Not of buildings or specific rooms.
They are not of the first place I remember calling home. The tiny two-bedroom home in Clarkston, Washington. The one with the peeling white paint façade, and the mostly dirt yard where bugs would make dozens of conical burrows to trap ants. And we would gleefully help by dropping them into the holes. With the pot-holed alley in the back that ran to the homes of friends.
They are not of the apartment we shared with my aunt when we first arrived in Minnesota. The one with the big pool and well-equipped playground.
Nor are they of apartment in Blaine where we spent three years. The one with the tree outside where my brother and I carved our names. I wonder if the tree is still there, if our names can still be read. The playground filled with sand that I would throw at my brothers. The fence that separated the apartments from the strip mall behind us, and the hole my brothers and I would sneak through to get there.
They are not even of our house in Rush City. The place I refer to as my “hometown.” The yellow house with overgrown grass, where the doors were never locked. Where friendships were made, and love found and lost. The deck that backed up to our garage so that we could climb to the roof and gaze at the stars. The town with no stop lights, but a bar and a church on nearly every corner. The main street we walked up and down, wandering, our whole youth. The school I spent 6 years of my life, and the walk home that I could take with my eyes closed. The map of the winter stars ever burned into my memory so that when the chill of December catches my breath I can feel my feet balancing from parking block to parking block, and I know right where to look for Cassiopeia.
Not even that is home of my memories, where my thoughts drift without effort. When I catch myself not yet fully awake, lost in reverie.
None of those places are home, yet all of them are home, because all of them were touched by love, and all of them leave an imprint. It isn’t the place that I remember when I long for home, but the feeling of love.
Home is where we make it. Home is where my Gramma made us breakfast, and my Mom and I stayed up late talking philosophy. Home is where I curl up on the couch and read to my son, and where my husband and I stay up late, sipping wine and listening to music. Home is being in the presence of love.
Our house might not look perfect, but it is our home, a place filled with love, where memories are made. All I can hope for is that someday, my children will also feel our presence in their memories of home and that in our presence they were surrounded by love.
“Houses are made of bricks and stone, Homes are made of love alone.”
Copyright 2017 Amanda Torres.
Originally posted at In Earthen Vessels.