What Makes Home A ‘Home’

I have always been intrigued by how encompassing the sense of ‘home’ is, and what it really means to people. I am always introspecting what it means to me, and how the sense of home changes several times in our lives. Also, the way we journey from one home to another, and the times when we have more than one home at the same time. And yet, in some fundamental way the feeling of being at ‘home’ remains the same.

The dictionary defines a home as the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household  or as one’s place of residence, one’s dwelling, or the place where one’s domestic activity happens. However, a home is much more than that. And everyone knows what it feels like to be homesick, to miss one’s home and feeling adrift without one.

Home is both a physical space and an intangible feeling you get in a location or an environment, with families, friends, people, things, belongings, pets, gardens and more. For some, home is just a physical space, the house and belongings and for others it’s the family residing in it. And for the lucky ones, it’s both. Our impression of home is always bound by memories, nostalgia and recollections. While home isn’t always easy to define, but you know when you’re there.

Even though for some of us, home means different things and places at different stages of our lives, it continues to be one place and one family for many others.  Home is the base where everything begins. A stable foundation, a place that provides constancy and steadiness along with comfort, safety and security.

We take our homes for granted but ask the homeless what it means not to have a home. Or those residing in temporary dwellings and shelter homes for whom the transient residences and the people they are with, make up for homes.

For the fortunate many, home is a safe haven and a refuge where they are surrounded by people who love them, a sanctuary where they are protected, a place where they build memories and their future. A place where they can truly be themselves.

Home epitomises solid protective walls, a warm and cosy bed that one returns to, a hot breakfast every day, delicious food cooked by the family, hot running water, the smell of fresh laundry and a hot cup of tea, coupled with the revelries and the love care and support from family members.

Home can be simple everyday moments – the peaceful sensation lying on your bed on a cozy, rainy day, the feeling of relief when you ring the bell or open the door after a long day, a child’s arm around you, the warmth of your partner, the relaxed feeling as you read a book sitting in your balcony sipping a cup of tea, your mother’s meal or your siblings chatter.

And it can be profound too with deep emotional meaning. It’s knowing that no matter how hard the times, someone is there for you, a place of love and comfort that is always welcoming, a place where you feel safe and deserving even on the worst days, and a place to share. It is where we retreat during tough times depending on the family and the familiar, an anchor that prevents us from drifting.

At our homes, we accept each other with our imperfect selves. A place where we can be absolutely ourselves. The clutters, cobwebs, the layer of gathering dust, dishes in the sink, slightly burnt food, walls smudged with crayon art – are all ours.

Some homes are permanent and some temporary. But home is not static. It could be where we grew up, but it can just as easily be where we feel settled and begin a new life. Home has been many places for us over the years. As we enter into adult lives, home is wherever we gather with our family and friends.

For those with permanent homes, they are more than financial assets or prudent investments. For those of us fortunate enough to have grown up in houses owned by our parents, they were the foundation of our childhood memories.

For some of us, home is a person as epitomised by the old Billy Joel song “You’re My Home.” Sometimes home is a scent, a smell, a memory and even when we are far away from it, a whiff of a similar smell and memory transports us back to it. The familiar smell of your mother, the aroma of a favourite food, the fragrance of a particular flower in the garden or even that endearing smell of a favourite pillow – are enough to take us down the memory lane to our homes.

There’s also a difference between feeling at home and being home. For some people, going back home means visiting the place where they grew up. But for many, it’s not about the place. It’s more about the feeling of being “at home”. It’s that feeling of relief, comfort, and warmth after a particularly exhausting day. A place may not be home for us but makes us comfortable, secure and loved enough to make us feel at home as the old saying goes, “home is where the heart is.”

Home is also where many plant their roots, discover their friends, community and identity. It is where we learn to express our personal choices, aspirations, needs, and desires through our relationships with the first people we interact with

Home is where memories are created and futures are built. It’s where hopes and dreams take shape. It’s a place of refuge when we all want to take a break from the rest of the world. It’s your personal sanctuary, the only place you can be totally yourself, and the one place where you are comfortable in your own skin.

On the contrary, while for some home is where they are accepted, for others the lack of this very acceptance makes them shun their home and the people they share a house with become strangers or adversaries. Instead of a sanctuary, homes turn into prisons

Home acquired a new meaning during the Covid pandemic when people were confined to their homes for long. While some cherished staying at homes and rediscovering the values of homes and families, others felt lost and depressed with the isolation and the loss of livelihood. Our homes became our refuge and also confinements, crammed with too many people.

Some people, as they grow up and journey through their lives, rediscover home again and again in different places and people. And some people never find another after leaving one. Then there are those who never leave the one home they’ve always known.

Now and then, home is as usual. Routine and mundane. And you long to take a break from the monotony of it. We yearn to travel and go somewhere else, and then we long to come back home. Home is a place so deeply familiar you don’t even have to notice it. But as long as you know that you have a home and you belong somewhere – wherever that might be – you have a treasure.

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