For the past five years we have lived in a garage. With a port-a-potty outside, a tiny little cook stove, and limited running water. A minimum half hour drive for a shower at the local YMCA. A wood stove for heat (meaning spending summers chopping and stacking). Just think about that for a moment before reading on. Could you do that? I have a lot of strong friends who could, and have done so.
At first it was difficult. Especially during the two years or so that I was ‘insane’. Meaning after radiation treatments to my head ended, and I endured the emotional fallout.
I found myself oddly craving a home. I studied them as I drove by, the shapes of dormers and doorways, decks with grills, curtains. My poor husband lived with stress and guilt, feeling like he could not give me a place like that.
But I wasn’t unhappy where we were. I felt ashamed when people came to visit, but then, very few did anyway, so it wasn’t bad. I learned what ‘house-pride’ meant, and became humble. And then one hot summer day a friend said to me that she’d give anything for a home where she could open up one whole wall to the breeze. I had the garage door open at the time. It made me look around differently.
We had a roof over our heads. We were toasty warm in the winter, in spite of the frosty outhouse seat. We had food on the table, and each other. Isn’t that what a home is? Protection from the elements, loved ones, safety, a fixed place in a crazy world?
Then a few months ago friends offered to sell us our old house back. Life turned into a stressful whirlwind as we decided to give up on our dream of building, and sold the property. Now we’re in transition, renting a tiny A-frame while we wait to see if the purchase goes through.
In this A-frame, we have the same furniture we had in the garage. The same…things. Of course there’s a flushing toilet and a shower, which is an upgrade. But still. It’s the same family unit, the same dogs. The A-frame is comfortable. I miss being able to hear the rain on the metal roof. I don’t get outside nearly as much as I did when I had to go into the weather for everything. Again, think about this for a moment. If we had to pee in the middle of the night, we had to put on shoes, sometimes a coat, get a flashlight, and go out into a very dark mountain night. With owls and mysterious noises in the woods. I found it fun most of the time; one friend in particular probably didn’t. You know who you are, Jenni.
Seriously though, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a home means. What makes this A-frame any different from our garage, other than a few material comforts? What will make the place we purchase any different from the garage? Well, a lot less stress and work for my husband, that’s for sure. A more comfortable space and more privacy for our son. But other than those things, what is the difference? I don’t know.
It’s nice having a kitchen. I’m thrilled to have an oven again. I’m even enjoying having a toilet to clean, though I had to buy a toilet bowl brush. Five years with no need for one. I imagine eventually the novelty will wear off. Again though, does that make a home?
I can’t answer that question and I refuse to resort to clichés such as ‘home is where your heart is’. That’s not enough.
Maybe it’s simply a light in the window when you come home from work. Space to claim. Possessions around you. All things we had in the garage. Why then did that feel like camping?
What is a home to you?