31 May 2008

What Is Home?

I'm still digesting Wednesday night's housing and relocation subcommittee meeting re: if/how to bring up to code the houses owned by those preservation block occupants who do not want to relocate, not even possibly next door to one of our ever-closer-to-reality green rehabs. The discussion was dense and difficult, and at times surprisingly tender. There were tears - mine - and someone else's (doesn't matter who) - as talk turned towards the notion of home, as opposed to house.

Home is where you grew up. It's the dining room table your friends and family crowd around for birthdays and holidays and Scrabble. Home is getting knocked over by the fragrance of a chicken roasting in October or roses tumbling over the trellis in May.

Home is pride in an unbroken familial chain of ownership. It's the hug you feel crossing the threshold after a bad day. And if you're lucky, home is where you're comfortable, safe, and loved.

House is the envelope, the four walls - Patterson Park vernacular and regimented or Reservoir Hill drop-dead over-the-top - it doesn't matter. It's just the vessel.

In 1985, I had to sell the home in which I lived and grew up. Though I endured the worst days of my life there, I also had the comfort of some memories so precious and beautiful that the house remained a refuge. Despite all mental preparations and the Victorian awaiting in Charles Village, Menlo Drive felt ripped from me and settlement ground to a half-hour halt as I desperately worked to collect myself. But I mentally moved on almost as soon as taking up residence in that circa 1887 frame house. Then after 14 years - and a wrenching goodbye to my roses in a driving thunderstorm - I moved on again.

In the past nine years, I've learned a lot about pitching things, both material and mental, in order to make way for other things and I know I could give up this fabulous (OK, maybe one day after a lot more work) Bolton Hill house for a shanty - as long as there's a place for my Grandma's dining room table, around which I've had and still have the best times of my life, and I'm lucky enough to be going someplace where I'm comfortable, safe, and loved.

And today, as residents - both those who must relocate, as well as those on preservation blocks - toured houses rehabbed by our short-listed general contractors to get a sense of what our rehabs might look like, even folks who an hour earlier remained dead-set against moving were eager to sign the green dotted line. I actually heard several musing about where to put their dining room tables. When one gentleman leaned out the second story front window of his favorite floor plan house and called below to his wife "We're home," my tears flowed again.

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