Hole, Sweet Hole

Our home is currently a gaping pit. It is a red, crusty maw in the earth. The college kids who live next door are genuinely afraid for their safety, not trusting their drunk selves with a veritable canyon running alongside their sidewalk.

Hole, sweet hole (before excavation).

Our home is a hole in the earth.

This construction process has really forced me to rethink and redefine “home.” In the last week I’ve referred to many different places as home, usually in the context of trying to find a center, a ground, a home. I told Matt that the 12×12 foot bedroom we inhabit in his grandmother’s home is our home. Those four walls with our bed and Cappie’s bed and a fourth of our clothes, that’s home for now.

I’ve also stopped by our construction site and called that home. I popped by to use the bathroom — yes, the port-a-john — and said I was just “running by home.” Squatting delicately in the green plastic potty, I did actually feel quite at home. I was in my backyard, the site of dozens of fires, a handful of birthday parties, an epic New Years Eve fireworks show. There, over there where that excavator sits is where we planted zinnia seeds — and they grew! There, where the concrete form sits on its side, that’s where Cappie tried daily to dig a hole to China. It was funny to hear the echoes of our happy year in that house, while also hearing the echoes of the plastic bathroom capsule that sits there now.

On Tuesday I stayed in a Hampton Inn off the highway near Charlotte, a place I’ve stayed so many times this year that I referred to it as “home” when I left the office that day. The front desk greeted me with smiles, knew I wouldn’t be needing a key or my two complimentary bottles of water, and told me they’d gotten more ink for the printer. The room itself was just as sad as ever, but being seen and known when I arrived did actually make the place feel a little bit like home.

I’m sitting now in an Airbnb in Portland, Maine. We just returned from a family dinner at the cottage where Matt’s family has spent sixty years of summers. That place felt a little bit like home: That’s the couch where we watched the 2012 Summer Olympics, where I inexplicably cried watching coverage of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s funeral, where we would lounge languidly just to hear one of Matt’s grandparents half-joke, half-insist, “Four feet on the ground.”

This Airbnb? My husband’s in the room next door. Cousins are below us. It’s got old leaky windows, wide plank floors, and beadboard on the ceilings. The couch is a little slumped. I hear a cousin laugh. It’s home, too.

Matt and I have said for years — particularly the years we were both on the road for work constantly — that home is wherever we’re together. Yes, I swear, before Mumford and Sons said the same. That’s still true. Hotel room, yurt, tent, Spanish cave, bull farm, if we’re together, it is home.

But since we took that first sledgehammer to our home in August and moved everything into storage in a basement in the middle of nowhere and are squatting with family, pretending 12 months is “temporary,” I’ve started to broaden my definition of “home.” Home is where kindness lives. Where you’re seen. Where you’re known.

If your husband, dog, a cousin or two, maybe a niece or nephew, a mom or a dad are there, too — even better. And if you have a closet, not an industrial clothing rack? Now, now you’re really talking. In the interest of my sanity, though, I’m going to focus on the human element of home – and try to leave the four walls and a roof aside.

Cappie thinks everything is a fun adventure.

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Alicia Amling View All →

Recovering journalist who discovered a life outside of news leaves you time for things like getting angry, cooking and traveling. Plus, hopefully, writing. I’m a wife, dog mom and Washingtonian.

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