A House Full of Stories
Steve shows me a picture on Facebook. A friend’s house, empty save for a wall of boxes in one corner. Packing paper litters the floor. A familiar tightening starts in my chest.
We don’t have a move to worry about anytime soon. I am immensely grateful for that. I know all too well the overwhelm of boxes. It’s just part of what we do. Every two to three years, all of our worldly possessions are packed into boxes, which are packed into cartons, loaded on a boat and shipped somewhere new in the world.
Then comes the deluge of possessions descending on our new home. I know the struggle it is to to clear just enough flat surface to have dinner. It is simultaneously thrilling and draining to put together a new home.
That’s why I’m so deeply invested learning to do this home-making better. Not just faster or more efficiently. But, more real, more accurate to us. My goal is not just to make a home, but make our home—something that uniquely suits my one unique family who dwell here.
When I’m finished unpacking and the dust has all settled, I want to have created a space that is the best possible container for all the love that I want to happen inside it. I want it to feel like us, but I also want it to feed us.
And, most importantly, I don’t want to re-invent the wheel with every move. We are greeted by a huge variety of new spaces. I don’t have the mental energy to begin from scratch every time. I have too much living, exploring, and loving to do. I need a guiding principle that will help me set up a home whether it’s a 9,000 square foot house or an extended-stay hotel room. Because, friends, those have both been my homes, plus a myriad of options in between. I need a principle that can apply to all of these scenarios.
I think it was that alchemy of needs that created the epiphany I had during this last move. I sat in the familiar chaos of a new house, strewn with all of our possessions. I picked up the quilt my great grandmother and I began to fold it. I wasn’t sure where it would live eventually, but I thought I might tuck it under the coffee table for now. As I folded this quilt, as I ran my hands over the fabric, it occurred to me that this is a tiny piece of my history. It occurred to me that making a home isn’t just looking for a place to stash things.
These things are what peppers our days. These are the background of our time together. This is what we see, and touch and interact with every day.
These things that I sort and use and cart around the world are the background for our days together. Yes, it is the time we spend together that truly matters. I understand that it’s our interactions that are the most real of our reality.
I think there's something important here. These things that I bring into our home can be trivial and disposable and disconnected. Or, they can be things with a story of their own. Maybe it's a bit of our story, like my great grandmother's quilt. Maybe it's the story of its maker, marks left that are visible to my eyes. Using things with a story brings more depth to my own story. It connects me to this moment. I am more present. More available when I surround myself with things with a story.
I have to stir the pot every night anyway. How much richer to use the one my father made for me, after I asked him how difficult it would be for me to learn to make one. Sure, I am making tomato soup, but I am also seeing my father in the garage, wearing my mother’s reading glasses, carving me a spoon with a borrowed xacto knife.
I don't just want to create a home. I want to make a House Full of Stories.
A house full of things that have their own stories, and things that support us in our story as we live it right now. A giant wooden bowl that we fill with popcorn every Sunday. A purse knotted as a grandfather crossed an ocean to fight a war. A rolling pin carved of one piece of wood. That’s what I want to populate our home with: Stories.
I don’t mean the Once-upon-a-time kind of story. And I don't mean anyone else’s story. I am referring to our story. The very real truth of how our days play out every day in our home. The echoes of the stories that we’ve shared before. The parts of our story that began before we were even here, with grandmas and grandpas. These are all our story.
This realization has changed everything. Now I’m not walking around the house trying to decide the perfect paint color. I’m not suck on Pintrest trying to discern the current mood of decorating. Instead, I’m asking myself who will use this space, and how with they use it? What are the conversations we’ll have here, and how can I enrich them? Who can I welcome? How can I help them feel loved?
The answers to those questions tell me what stays and what goes. It helps me decide what to bring into our home in the first place. It tells me how to create our home, our House Full of Stories.