Growing up, there were three rooms in my parent’s house that my younger brother and I were never allowed into- the formal living room, the formal dining room, and the guest bedroom. My mother kept them perpetually ready for company, which in hindsight was quite the feat because we had company constantly and she was always busy. The rest of our house was often in various states of disarray, with my mom getting her second and third university degrees while I was graduating high school with a 3.45 GPA and my brother starting the IB program. I hated cleaning those rooms, the only exception to my mother’s lax housekeeping rules, but now that I’m older, I am deeply nostalgic for what those rooms represented in my life.
For me, the difference between a house and a home is that a home is as much for the people you love as it is for yourself. That’s why the formal dining room was always pristine while the kitchen dining table was always hidden under a pile of stuff from everyone’s school projects. The kitchen table was our space, but the formal dining room table was a space for everyone that was always in and out of our house.
Home is sound and noises and a little bit of clutter. Home is the joy of family and friends dropping by unexpectedly to see us because they were in the neighbourhood, and it was always good to see them. It is the ringing in my ears of my aunties shouting to my cousins that we had arrived when my family would drop by each time we were in their neighbourhood, and they were always happy to see us. Home is the mess of people interacting with each other and being comfortable enough around one another to be unceremonious and relaxed about where they put things, because it’s far more important to talk to each other than it is to clean. Cleaning’s not bad, just as long as you all do it together. I have never been, and doubt I will ever be, truly comfortable in very clean, very quiet spaces.
Being surrounded by people you love is what turns eating in a house into sitting down for a communion at home. I am neither pious nor spiritual, but I do believe in the power of a group of people around a table, sharing food and letting a deep bond rise out of the spaces between them.
If we ever meet, and we start spending a lot of time together and we get along famously, but you wonder how I feel about you, ask me this: “A.Y., will you make me something?” And if I make you something, you will know that I like you very much, and the more time it takes me to make it, the more you will know I like you. But if I’m the one who invites you over for dinner, and then after dinner I make you tea, and and then after tea I urge you to stay a little while longer, and talk for a little bit more…well then you can trust with every fibre of your being that you are very dearly loved. Sitting in communion with you at my table will have helped me turn my house into a home. And there’s no place quite like it, is there?
I’m done being sentimental for now.