The Ache for Home


“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling

My husband and I are fans of HGTV. Watching House Hunters, we chuckle as couples wander through three houses, nitpicking every small closet and outdated kitchen. We gasp at some of the prices, even though the structures are run-down and lacking adequate heating and air conditioning. We also love all the rehab shows, especially ones that have quirky pairs (cute Southern couple, mother and daughter, brother and sister) renovating old homes with “good bones.” 

Here’s the thing, though. Neither of us are very handy. We just love to see others demo walls and lime green bathrooms, although we personally have no desire to ever gut a house. The house we bought two years ago was a fairly new build with little need of rehab. We did have wood floors installed, and yes, the kitchen needs a modern overhaul, but that has to wait until we can afford it. For now, we have settled into our little home with the quaint double porches and tiny backyard. has 31 definitions of home: twelve nouns, four adjectives, four adverbs, seven verbs, and five idioms. It has 41 of house: twenty-two nouns, eight verbs, four adjectives, and seven idioms. But when posed with the question, what is the difference between a house and a home, most of us will say a house is the physical structure where we keep our stuff, and a home is where we live and love.

The home improvement industry is a billion dollar behemoth. People pour hard earned dollars into expensive tiles, farmhouse sinks, and trendy wallpaper installation. We are taught to believe we won’t be happy without the granite countertops or that top-of-the line gas oven. It is a vicious form of house shaming. How dare you live with popcorn ceilings! What, carpet instead of wood floors? Your house looks like the others on your street? Shame! Shame! Shame!

But here’s the truth. No one really cares. All that is important is this: Does it give YOU joy? It doesn’t matter if you can’t afford the improvements. Just fill your house with love. Cook good food. Display beloved items you’ve collected over the years. Invite family and friends to sit at your table, no matter how battered or small or mismatched your furniture may appear. That is a home.

Don’t despair if your house doesn’t have a pricey Wolf oven (I do covet one, though!) or Carrara white marble in the master bath. Instead, create your own refuge, whether it is downsizing to 1200 square feet, a dramatic dream cottage, or a tiny house on wheels.

Our little home will never win any awards. It has builder grade cabinets and vinyl flooring in the bathrooms, yet I have hung pictures that are dear to me on the walls. Every corner contains stacks of vintage books I have bought over the years. I love antique linens and inspirational sayings. I try to keep fresh flowers on the counter. There is no apparent style, except perhaps “Christie’s Cute Shit,” as my friend Nancy likes to define it. It’s a good thing my husband does not have a strong opinion on how I decorate because our entire house is my personal “She Shed,” complete with pastel florals and fuzzy pink pillows. But when I look at each room, I feel a sense of peace and comfort. Our house is our haven, our refuge, our sanctuary.

My sister Ann and her husband Mike worked for years on the design on their dream house. It took lots of planning and over a year from the demolition of the existing structure to their move-in date, but their home is a gorgeous example of taking a vision on paper and making it a reality. Their Craftsman cottage has layers of light that twinkle off the pond that peeks through the wall of windows that line the back of the house. Its simplistic yet careful design tells their story in every corner. It is a beautiful and inviting home to witness.

After my friend Leslie retired from teaching, she and her husband decided to fulfill their dream of traveling all over the country in their camper. They sold their house, and have recently logged over 24,000 miles since June 2018 with their small white dog Pierre in tow. They wander the country spending time hiking and visiting with family and friends who are scattered around the U.S. Leslie said, “My home is the wonderful spacial surroundings that I share with my husband and Pierre…Now we are kids again, like before children. We are looking for our next campsite all the time. Researching terrain, weather, and last summer avoiding fires.” They have gathered peaches in Georgia and are now headed out to Washington State for cherry season. Soon they will have a new hard sided camper that will offer better protection from harsh weather and bears.

My sister’s Craftsman is a warm, welcoming retreat. Leslie and Mark have found a rolling home where their sanctuary is nature. My husband’s and my haven has a green gabled roofline with a white swing on the front porch and pink roses in the back.

What is your home? Wherever or whatever it is, I hope your home is your heart, because wherever your heart is, you will find home.

“I could be your state and I could be your nation
It doesn’t get better than home, now does it?
Doesn’t get better than home, now does it?
I could be your welcome, I could be your greeter
I could be sweet and I could be sweeter
I want to be where your heart is home”

“Home” songwriter: Zooey Clare Deschanel

Leslie and Mark’s home parked in the desert.
My sister’s view from her deck.
My collections of vintage linens and aprons.

I know not all houses contain a sense of safety. In fact, some are dangerous places where the halls echo with hateful language and hurt feelings. Children cower in closets in order to escape abusive words and fists. I also acknowledge there are many out there who left their homes in order to attempt to give their families a better life, and now may be stuck in dismal refugee camps, worrying about about their futures. Others live alone, with no visitors to brighten their days. Some houses contain sickness, and no amount of fresh paint will cure the illnesses that seep throughout the halls.

I wish I possessed the cures for all these cheerless dwellings. I am not that powerful. I only know my heart aches for those who do not live in a joyful place, be it a trailer or a mansion by the sea. Home should be safe, yet it is a dangerous or sad or harrowing place for many in the world.

Here are a few organizations which you may want to donate money or volunteer your time in order to help families create safe and happy homes. These are only a few. Do your own research. See which fits your heart.

Building Homes for Heroes

The Fuller Center for Housing

Habitat for Humanity

Home for Our Troops

CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocate

International Rescue Committee

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