- Become so attached that you cannot separate your identity from it
Live and grow there with the people you love. Use each and every part of the house, every square inch. Let your siblings teach you how to use the foyer and living room for floor hockey. Use the tall, angled ceilings in the living room as movie screens and decorate the largest possible Christmas tree every year. Use the unfinished basement for band practice or gymnastics or as the set for a music video. Use the shower to shower, but also to cry. Cry in your room, too. Laugh in every room with every person who matters. Laugh at dad snoring on the couch in the living room. Laugh at mom leaving her retainer on the kitchen counter. Laugh at your brothers wrestling in the living room, the kitchen, the basement, and every bedroom.
Fight there, too. Deliver one word answers when your parents ask you how your day was. Roll your eyes at every tip your dad offers after your games and tell him you don’t need his help. Pretend you don’t hear the catch in your mom’s voice when she asks if you like her. Tell your brother you hate him, and don’t talk to him for days. Argue constantly. Slam doors. Punch walls.
Doing all of this, the place should know you better than you do.
- Leave temporarily
Leave for school, for a job, or just to leave. Take it for granted. Learn and grow outside its walls. Tell the people you meet about your home and about the people who live there. About the floor hockey and about the laughter and about the cruel things you’ve said and regretted there.
Get hurt. Find someone you love who loves you. Try to make it work until you wonder why you’re trying so hard and what that means for you both. Look around once it’s over and realize how few are the friends you have left. Hold onto those who’ve stayed. Keep learning and growing though it is difficult. Focus on your work.
Go back. Inhale the familiar smell of your mom’s Italian wedding soup and tune in to the clacking of siblings playing pool in the basement. Run your fingers against the walls as you walk through the hallway. Count the missing wooden fence posts that you knocked off the treehouse while playing soccer in the backyard. Lie down in the treehouse while you look up at the canopy, trace the leaves and remember what you used to daydream about. Fall asleep in the arms of the couch when your family watches football. Smile when the oak tree in the front yard drops an acorn on your head. Welcome back, it seems to say. Remember how it feels to be somewhere that knows you.
Hug your family for what feels like the first time, and don’t say any more cruel things. Apologize for old arguments. Feel comforted in every sense.
- Lose it, and blame a loved one
Someone will tell you this house won’t be your home for much longer because your parents will decide to downsize now that all their kids have grown up.
Interrogate them. Question why they would do this before you’ve graduated. Ask them if they don’t feel connected to it in the same way you do. When they explain that, yes, it is sooner than expected, shift the blame to the new homeowners while still holding a grudge with your loved ones. Avoid conversations with them. If they talk to you and you must respond, do so unenthusiastically. Slam more doors. Cry in more showers. Refuse to believe someone else will call this place that is yours, theirs.
Listen when they tell you they weren’t expecting this to happen so soon either. Pay attention to the tone of their voice, and watch their eyes as they tell you this. Hear what they don’t say. See that they are feeling things, too. Stop blaming them if you can.
- Commit every square foot to memory
Enjoy every inch of the place while you can, while still refusing to accept you will lose it soon. Memorize every creak in the floorboards, every paint chip in the walls, every nook where you used to hide, every heater you and your brother would sit in front of in the winter when you were little, every tree you’ve climbed. Remember the meals you’ve shared there with the people you love, the holidays celebrated, even the family reunion in the backyard you were too young to remember, and the family dog that bit the neighbors that you’ve only heard stories about. Imagine how many more memories your family has made there years before you were born that you don’t even know about.
Don’t forget the time capsule you and your neighbors buried in the backyard years ago, the clicking sound of the dryer as it tossed your icy clothes after a day of sledding, the cracks in the driveway you used to avoid when you were on your rollerblades following closely behind your brothers. Write it all down. Take pictures.
Drink champagne with friends and family in the empty house the last night that it’s still yours. Share fond memories of sleepovers in the living room, camping in the backyard. Notice how bare it looks with all of your family’s things moved out.
Try to enjoy the last night, but know that you won’t. Wish you could have a day by yourself with it. Write an ode to each room in your head or on paper.
- Settle somewhere new knowing it will not be the same, but that it will be enough
When you want to complain that the kitchen is smaller than your old home, or that the walls are too thin, or that it isn’t big enough for the holidays when everyone comes home, hold your tongue. Instead, listen as your mom rambles about all the changes they’re going to make, all the ways she plans on making it feel like home. Grab a paintbrush, a hammer, a drill.
Find fragments of home all around you. In the smell of the backyard’s freshly cut grass where you still play soccer. In the creaking sound of your grandmother’s old rocking chair as your dad dozes during the holidays. In the basement where at the pool table siblings break, share stories, and scheme together. In the family photo albums you routinely flip through that stand tall on the living room shelves. In your parents’ glistening eyes when they have all the kids home for the holidays.
Then, with these fragments, reconstruct what home means to you.
A recent graduate of Emerson College, Kira Venturini lives in Washington, DC and works in the nonprofit industry. She grew up in Wallingford, Pennsylvania as the youngest in her family of five. Her work has been published in Talking Writing.