My Forever Home

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You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.
– Maya Angelou 

You can’t go home again isn’t just metaphorical for many people.  The first home I ever knew–the married student housing apartments where I lived with my parents until I was four years old–was demolished not long ago to make way for intramural sports fields.  The last home I lived in was burned nearly to the ground, destroying almost everything we owned.

burned down house

At this time of year, hearts turn toward home, and I am no different–but I find myself longing for places that are no longer available.  I was fortunate to live in the same neighborhood for most of my childhood.  My closest cousins and my maternal grandparents lived there too, and my paternal grandmother lived across town.  Holidays followed a predictable, safe pattern:  Thanksgiving lunch at Mima’s and supper at Granny’s, then Christmas morning at Mima’s and Christmas afternoon at Granny’s.  That was the way it was for 22 years, until divorces and deaths intervened.   Until recently, one childhood house remained:  my mother had been living in her mother’s old house.  When she sold it earlier this year, the last link remaining to that childhood stability was gone.

As the oldest in my family of birth and the first one to have a family of my own, providing a home for the holidays has most often fallen to me, and I hope that my children have fond memories of those days even though the places and patterns have shifted over time.  My favorite adult holiday memories took place in the Victorian house where we lived for eight years.  Despite its somewhat decrepit condition, with its large formal spaces it was ideal for entertaining.  It was the house for which we collected not-quite-antique furniture, piece by piece, the one we decorated with portraits of our children and religious icons.  To me it was my dream house, and when we had to move out for financial reasons I was devastated.  No house has really felt like home to me since.

Victorian House

For the two years after that, we were renting a house that never felt comfortable or safe.  Part of that, I think, was because it was not really ours and we weren’t sure how long we would be able to stay there.  When it burned down, destroying everything, it was the completion of the loss that began with our move.

Since that happened four years ago, I feel I have been trying to regain a sense of home.  We are still renting, but we have plans to buy the house we have lived in since just a few weeks after the fire.  I have started gardening again, putting down literal roots.  But I struggle with decorating, acquiring knickknacks, hanging pictures, really committing.

house and garden

Almost everything in the house–right down to the dishes we eat from and the sheets on the beds–was given to us.  We are surrounded by reminders of the love of the people in our various communities every day.

And that’s part of what made me realize that to me, home has come to mean something other than a house.  When I think of home, I think of Knoxville, my hometown, where I have spent all but five years of my life, the place where I was married and where all my babies were born.  Whenever I return from a vacation, my heart feels a little lighter as soon as I cross the Tennessee line.  The road sign that reads Knoxville – 12 miles always lifts my spirits.  And probably the most welcoming sight in the world to me is the Knoxville skyline, with my own parish church at the very front, visible on the interstate as we drive through town.

IC from CP

My roots in this town are deep–my father’s people have lived in this area since the 1700s.  Even though my husband has only lived here 25 years, he has put down roots as well.  I may not know in what house we will be celebrating the holidays five or ten or twenty years from now, but I know the party will be in Knoxville, my forever home.

Home to Me

This post is part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by Julie Walsh of These Walls. During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers will share about what the concept of “home” means to them. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls

November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb

November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress

November 16 – Rita @ Open Window

November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls

November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow

November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365

November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing

November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels

November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room

November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes

November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life

November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family

November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons

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Too Much Stuff: An All-American Problem

TOO MUCH STUFF

Americans have a lot of stuff.  Let’s take a look at some of these statistics excerpted from Joshua Becker’s article in his blog, Becoming Minimalist, shall we?

  • There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

I have no intention of counting, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  We used to have a really cool book that showed people from various countries standing outside their homes with all their earthly goods.  The contrast between Americans and just about everyone else was staggering.

  • The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).

Remember The Brady Bunch? Three boys in one room, three girls in the other?  That wouldn’t cut it nowadays.  The house we are currently renting has an astonishing eight bedrooms (one is used as an office).  They are not big rooms, but everyone has his or her own.

  • And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).

That would be us, despite the aforementioned large home, but ours is just for the old office files.  Isn’t it bizarre, though, that we as a country own so much stuff that we pay extra rent to house things we don’t use?  Does this make financial sense?

  • 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).

Us again.  Besides the usual garage stuff, ours has more office files, and a lot of furniture we are hoping to offload to our big kids as they move out.  And did you know that with houses of a certain size, it’s hard to sell them unless they have a THREE-car garage?

  • 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).

As my regular readers will recall, in 2011 our house burned down, leaving our kids with very few toys.  I am astonished at how quickly that changed.

  • The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).

I’m pretty sure I am below average here, but only because after all my clothes burned up I consciously decided to only buy what I absolutely needed and to ruthlessly purge things as soon as they did not fit or were not being worn.

That’s actually better than I would have predicted.

  • But our homes have more television sets than people. And those television sets are turned on for more than a third of the day—eight hours, 14 minutes (USA Today).

We currently have three working televisions for five people in residence.  And they are not turned as long as that, but we won’t discuss the computers.

  • Currently, the 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe account for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent (Worldwatch Institute).

That’s just sick, y’all.

  • Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they do not need (The Wall Street Journal).

In the years since I lost everything, I have resisted cluttering my life and my home up with more stuff.  The rest of my family has not resisted.  Despite regular trips to Goodwill, our house is still overflowing with unnecessary and redundant items.  You would think the stuff breeds secretly after we are all asleep.

Today I saw this book, which I have been hearing a lot about:

I’m wondering if this would help me get a handle on the situation around here.  As I type, Lorelei is making (while whining about it) multiple trips upstairs carrying junk of all description which she has left where it does not belong.  The irony? She is cleaning up to prepare for her birthday party, at which she will be receiving MORE STUFF.

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