A friend of mine recently posed a question: “In which house from your childhood did you feel most comfortable and what characteristics made it feel that way? Maybe it was at the home of a neighbor, grandparents, or even your own?” The driving force behind her question was that she and her husband had just purchased a new home and they wanted to be sure guests felt comfortable and relaxed when staying there. I assured my friend that as she was always a model hostess, their home would never feel cold or detached and houseguests would always leave with wonderful memories; however, her query did encourage my thoughts to go to a deeper subject: “What makes a house a home?” You see, that was really the essence of what she wanted to know.
The answer could come in many forms. Sherwin-Williams will say it’s in the paint on the walls (and granted, black painted walls wouldn’t be too welcoming). The various home store retailers will assure you making a house a home is all about décor. And I suspect more than a few furniture dealers would speak with confidence that comfortable seating is essential to a home (I do love a nice comfy chair, don’t you?). But as you may have discovered, although each of those things make a space more livable and more beautiful, none are the essential element in making a house a home. No, it isn’t the smell of a Thanksgiving dinner cooking—it’s your grandmother who has prepared it every year in your memory. It isn’t the carefully posed family portrait taken in front of the fireplace that hangs on the wall—it’s all your family who gather around that fireplace each Christmas. And it isn’t even your uncle’s favorite chair in which no one else is allowed to sit—it is the man who fills it. If you truly want to know what makes a house a home, look at the people who dwell within it.
My conclusion is that my friend need not have asked her original question, because in asking it she answered it as well. Her deep concern with making guests to their home comfortable is precisely what will make their new house a home—the people who reside within its walls and their care for others. I wish our dear couple many years of happiness in their first home and I selfishly wish for myself and my wife a few invitations to visit, to laugh and share stories, to eat and play games, and to help them make their house a home.