There was something different about it.
I pulled into the familiar driveway, to navy shutters and stained off-white siding that my mother always said needed repainted, but we never did. No one was there, and I no longer had a key to the door, but the garage opened to the same code. The door led to the kitchen, to hardwood floors I had watched my dad meticulously put in and familiar warm hues across the walls and filling the house. The scent diffuser next to the dryer greeted me and carried an almost-Christmas spice smell, year-round.
My room was the same - painted an eggshell blue with a deep brown accent wall, by my aunt on my fifteenth birthday. The comforter is polkadotted. My mom moved her chair into the corner with a few books, and declared the space her prayer room.
It was all so sweetly the same and partly mine, but for the first time, I felt strangely like a guest in the house I spent 18+ years calling “home.”
The day I moved onto Chandler Lane, I propped up my gigantic, malfunctioning laptop in a corner of the dusty, cream-drenched space and watched the OSU football game while I unpacked.
All of my furniture was a strange accumulation of cheap items I found on the internet or in a thrift store, and all of it required assembly or repainting. I spent a day shoving objects around the room and standing on chairs, mounting curtain rods and my own paintings.
It was my first post-grad house, and held a kind of pride in my heart for a short while. But a slow contempt grew as it felt increasingly borrowed and dirty and unsettled. I didn’t have a resting place that was mine. Just my room, cozy and simple and framed around an unkempt bed and throw pillows on the floor.
The same elements were transported and rearranged in my new space when we moved downtown - the cozyness now tucked into a room that is only large enough for me to circle the bed, and a small windowsill where my plant children thrive. The walls are a freshly pale grey, the carpet is new, and the rest of the home is floored in a dark wood that I can slip across in thick wool socks when my roommate isn’t there. It is entirely prettier and more established, but not my own.
“Does Kentucky feel like home?” someone at work asked me this week.
It felt more like home than the suburbs that grew me, now a bittersweet juxtaposition of a thoroughly depressed high schooler and a wildly imaginative, golden-haired child - still alive in my truest moments and in the arms of those who raised me. And while it was Kentucky that found me, unearthed me, I couldn’t bring myself to commit it to that lofty, concrete word.
I worked with a publication called Haven Magazine, which centers on the idea of finding home and prompted me to consider my own definition. I am frequently drawn back to it, and flip through the well-crafted pages and find a settledness in the stories told. But I consistently return to the idea that home is much less a place and much more a heart posture. It is the space we feel most ourselves and the moments that truly give us life and rest.
Home finds me in the comfort of deep friendships, with those who have seen me ugly cry and know my favorite Ben & Jerry’s and collectively dream about opening a coffee shop and creative house on the other side of the country (the dream shifts frequently, but that one is my favorite).
Home finds me in the familiarity of favorite songs, each recalling a season of life or an ache or a hope, often settling my heart and smile with lyrics that have taken residence.
Home finds me driving I-71N to Columbus, where my childhood collides with my present and my soul can breathe again; drinking an everlasting cup of coffee at my grandma’s kitchen table, laughing about family beach vacations and days when my nickname was “Alseeson” because my cousin could not pronounce it. On the visits when I find my mama on the other side of the table, she is faithful to intently questioning, listening with wide eyes and letting me ramble about recent misadventures.
Home finds me walking from my house to the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings when the weather is just right, taking slow steps down Short Street beneath the shadow of overgrown trees and historic brick houses.
Home finds me in my grandpa’s baseball hat, which I nagged him about enough to be gifted with it. It is stained with lake water and captain’s chair days and bears the name of our favorite baseball team. It’s the same team I still text my dad about, rejoicing in a 22-game win streak and looking forward to October games.
And home finds me curled up on a slow morning, sipping coffee and lounging on grey sheets, reading and talking with the Lord and watching light drift through flowing off-white curtains.
Little about 23 feels like home. My heart is full and scattered and unsure of what even the next year of my life will look like. “Home” these days takes much more residence in people and in feelings than places - to have a space that encompasses it is a luxury, but to be able to find it in fleeting memories, or aches or smiles, is an ability to know a home within who we were created to be.
“We spend our lives trying [our] key in all kinds of doors, looking for the place that feels like home. Until one day, we find ourselves in a particular city, or in a group of friends, in the arms of love, in the old walls of a craftsman home, or even a tent on the foggy coast at sunrise, and I realize: I am home.” -Jedidiah Jenkins, Haven Magazine Volume Two.