For a while, I thought home needed to be big-city life, bus-commuting, apartment-renting and distance from the suburban landscape where I grew up.
In Chicago, the Hubbs and I lived stacked in three-unit apartment buildings, called “three-flats.” We bought food at tiny ethnic markets, drank coffee roasted down the street by friends, and brunched through a lot of weekend mornings. It was a good life; I worked at a big start-up, earned a graduate degree from a world-class university and felt cultured.
But adulthood and time changed my priorities. What I wanted more than anything was to create a family and have a home filled with baby giggles, cartoons, home-cooked food and a lot of joy. When I thought about what mattered most to me, over and over, it came back to family. I wanted to create a new generation with my husband, watch a young life grow, and forge stronger bonds with my parents, siblings and extended family.
In the last two years, I’ve watched my son grow from a squishy, immobile infant to a walking, talking, coloring, singing, dancing toddler. He wags his finger at the cat and tells her “Down, kitty!” when she jumps on the counter. He begs for red wax-wrapped cheese as a snack. He makes a funny crackling sound to mimic thunder. He yells, “Hang on!” while dangling from my neck, with my arms supporting him.
Home is the place where I get to hear his giggles, feed him avocado that he squishes with his fingers and smears in his hair, and pile wooden blocks into towers that he knocks over with clumsy glee.
For some people, the aesthetics of a house may take priority over other hobbies. While I can admire an elaborate hand-painted mural, a renovated kitchen with custom cabinets, and spotless living room with white furniture, that doesn’t match my reality right now. I have a toddler; my husband and I work full time; and I value time spent on other interests. Living my dream is about celebrating family and enjoying the simple pleasures.
The transition to my hometown in Ohio was bumpy. I missed public transportation, the ease of walking around city neighborhoods with a stroller, and (of course!) the friends we’d made over many years in Chicago. But the benefits of being around my family more than make up for what we miss.
Now, home is being a short drive to my parents’ house, so they can be part of my son’s childhood. Home is the three miles to my grandmother’s house, where my toddler can pluck tiny, unripe apples squished into the mud under a tree, where he can ask where the deer are, and where he can pillage his great-grandmother’s basket full of toys, where a new one waits for him on most visits.
For me, home isn’t a funky condo in Chicago; it’s a two-story suburban house with room to add more kids. Home isn’t a rambling Victorian with more projects than I’d have time for with a toddler; it’s a family room with juice-stained carpet and sidewalk chalk scattered on the driveway. Home isn’t a perfectly curated midcentury Atomic Ranch house with Eames furniture; it’s a hand-me-down sofa and cat-scratched chair. (But I do enjoy digitally touring those eclectic, lovely spaces.)
It’s the place where I get to listen to my husband’s silly noises as he makes our son laugh. It’s the crib we put our son in every night, where he can snuggle up with a bear and a monkey. It’s the space that we wipe hummus from tables, chairs and fingers after an energetic toddler eats dinner.
Home is the bed that I’m typing from, the tree frog choir chirping outside my window as my son sleeps peacefully and my husband takes the dog out for her nightly walk. Home is my family. Home is where we make messy memories.
Photo by Rebecca Rudolph at Funky Lens Photography