Making a Home
My father was a career Army officer. Now, you read that, and you think that we moved every 2-3 years, with the result that I feel constantly displaced. Entirely wrong.
For starters, we moved every 5-7 years. And my parents were fantastic at helping us change houses, schools, and states as smoothly as possible. My mother always said, “Home is where we are together.” So my perception of home has never been based on a particular structure, but on family. (My mother grew up as the child of a mining engineer, so she moved every year or two herself and thus had valuable experience.) The result is that my brother and I are not daunted by the prospect of packing up and moving to a new place, and we have close friends all over the country.
But my mother and I were always prepared for the stereotypical Army move. (I was always ready to move before the Army was ready–I have a five-year “moving clock” in my head.) When we moved from the D.C. area to San Antonio, we found ourselves in a nice house with grotesquely ugly dining room curtains. Seriously, these could have inspired Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” They were that ugly. I said, “Can’t we buy new curtains?” My mother responded, “Why? How long do you think we’re going to live here?” So we just kept the curtains open whenever we used the room, so that we had to look at as little of that fabric as possible.
After a while I said, “No, really, can we buy new curtains?” My mother said, “Honestly, how long do you think we’re going to live here?” I answered, “I don’t know, but we’ve been in this house 10 years.”
So I’ve never been quick to decorate, because how long am I going to live there, anyhow? My brother once said that he could tell I was about to move out of a place when I finished decorating it. That’s been true of dorm rooms, sorority rooms, and at least one apartment.
But on the times that I have actually decorated in a timely manner, I’ve found myself in a very homey space. In grad school, my roommate and I bought all of our “art” at the thrift store. I remember one large woodland scene that had a few nicks in the paint. We filled them in with crayon and no one noticed. Instead, what one of our classmates said was, “It’s like going home.”
When Mr. Sandwich and I bought our house, it was in great shape–we painted, had the floors sanded and refinished, and moved in. Having our own colors on the wall instantly made it feel like our space. And hanging pictures was a priority for him, so those went up quickly. The result was that more than one person came over and said, “It doesn’t feel like you just moved in. It feels like you’ve lived here for years.”
We’re coming up on three years in the house. I don’t know if that five-year move clock will go off again, but at the moment, I can’t imagine leaving. It’s our home.