We are house-hunting for our first house as a family, and it’s starting to hit me just how important this is. Without sweet baby Harrison in the picture, it would be all about floors and room dimensions and fixtures and lighting. It would be about finding just the right house to suit our taste. He brings to light, however, that there is an entirely different angle that has to be considered as we search for our new place to live. It’s something intangible that we can’t just list under our “needs” and “wants”. Likewise, it’s something I can’t even really put into words. We are not just looking for a house for Harrison, we are looking for a home. But how will we know the difference?
Growing up, my parents moved us around much more than I would have liked, and it never felt like we stayed anywhere long enough to feel attached to the place we lived. Once, we did live in a certain house for about three years, and it came the closest to being a home to me, but once again, we moved away. I’m not really sure what it was about that house. I remember the day we moved in, I counted the steps from the doorway of my bedroom to the kitchen table. It was seven. Every day after that, I made sure to get myself to breakfast in seven steps or less. I practiced jumping from my bedroom door onto my bed, without having to touch the carpet, which was actually lava, so I could live to see another day. My closet door opened just the right way so that the light from it would shine on my bed instead of towards my door, allowing me to stay up late reading well after bedtime, without getting caught. In the long, skinny bathroom with the tub at the end, my best friend and I shampooed the floor and flung ourselves to the other end, slipping and sliding into the door. There was a big bay window at the front of the house, where we always placed our Christmas tree, and each room of the house led to another, so I could literally run laps around the inside of the house if I felt the need to, and I often did. That was the house where we brought home my new baby brother, and hung framed paintings I had made on his walls. I learned to do (and hate) my own laundry, and also learned that valuable lesson that dish soap and dishwasher soap are not the same thing. Outside of our house, the streets were hilly and perfect for bike-riding adventures. Every friend I cared to have lived within riding distance, and the neighbors without children would let us use their pools during the summer if we didn’t feel like going all the way to the yacht club. Yes, that house was the closest to home I have ever been, and it has now been twenty-three years since we moved away, and it’s a place I still drive by every time I get the chance. It has even been for sale a few times and my heart would race at the possibility of getting to live there again, but it would never be the same now.
I want what I had in that home for Harrison, but I want it for much longer than just a couple of years. So now, when we walk into a house, I try to picture all of the memories that will be created there, all the magic that will happen, all the growing up that will take place…and it has nothing to do with anything but a feeling, I guess. Also, some practicalities, like “will we have plenty of space to bake cookies together?” and “will Harrison be able to sneak out of his bedroom window someday?” (every kid needs that option, no matter what you say.) I try to imagine him waking up on Christmas morning and running to the Christmas tree…should he run down a flight of stairs? Should the tree be next to a fireplace? Will there be plenty of kids on the block so he can share his new toys? Can the backyard be another world if it needs to be? Is there at least one overgrown yard, hiding a run-down house so he’ll have a place to be the subject of his scary stories?
These are all important things to a kid, things I lost too soon and never got back. Part of keeping our house a home will fall to us, his parents, but part of it will just already be there, in whatever house we choose, waiting for Harrison to wake up its magic and bring it to life.