Friday, November 13, 2009
My Home Is Not for Sale
Ever since we moved back to America, it has bothered me that I see signs saying, "Home for Sale." When I first saw that phrase, I thought naively, "Oh, that's ridiculous. It's a house for sale, not a home. Whoever made those signs will get some feedback and stop printing them that way."
Boy, was I wrong! I can't even remember the last time I saw a "House for Sale" sign, but I see "Home for Sale" everywhere these days. Especially these days, as we are looking at the possibility of moving.
My guess is that it was someone's attempt to make a house sound cozier, more personal, or something. No doubt marketing was behind the change in words.
Or is there more to it than that? Is it possible that in our culture of broken homes, of jobs moving people all over the nation, of TV shows that make you wonder if there is such thing as a normal set of family relationships, that some people really don't know the difference between a house and a home? That the word home has no meaning for them beyond the walls that house a person or group of people? I wonder if houses being treated like investments is part of the picture, too.
I don't know. I just know that the signs have bothered me ever since I began seeing them.
When I hear "home for sale," I think of someone willing to give more time at the office than they are at home, giving up home life to make more money. Or "home for sale" could mean that someone is willing to trade commitment to their wedding vows for attention from another person and a distorted fulfillment of some emotional, or other, desire.
The phrase just gets me. I realize it's a technicality, that the dicionary on my desk does list "house" as one definition of home.
But if home is where your heart is, then how can your home ever be for sale?
As we are looking at houses and considering moving, I feel a great resistance to the process. I hate moving. Not just because of the hard work of packing and unpacking and making all the adjustments--but because this house has become my home. Our time and energy and love and memories have gone into this particular house, and when we leave it, the next house won't have those. Not yet.
But those things are also not for sale. The person who moves into this house next time will not share those memories. They may paint over all our chosen colors and the faux finish that took me night after night to complete. They won't know how long I spent thinking about the kitchen redo, or the hours it took to pull up all the pachysandra in the front yard. They won't know that I got the bricks for the flowerbed from our neighbor's dismantled chimney, and they won't remember the hours Drazen and I spent setting them in place, and they won't know that two of the bricks came from Grandmother's yard.
The memories will go with us, even though the flowerbed cannot. And in the next house, we will choose colors and paint walls and arrange our furniture. We will cook meals and sit together at the table night after night. We'll have friends and family over. We'll laugh and cry and share life, day after day. And that house will become a home. I have to remind myself of this in order to be able to make the move, if indeed we go through with it.
So, my home is not for sale. The house is, for now. But the home will be where our hearts are.
You can imagine that I was happy a few months ago, listening as Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio interviewed two professors who are teaching Wendell Berry to their college students. In a conversation about the importance of community in Berry's writing, one of them quoted him as saying, "If it's for sale, it's not a home."
Apparently I'm not the only one who noticed the signs and was bothered.