Tuesday, February 12, 2008


When I was a senior in high school I wrote a series of essays, short stories, and poems based on all of the definitions in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the word, "home." At it's height, it was easily a hundred pages long. I wrote it for an assignment in English class and had explained to my teacher that I needed extension after extension because this was going to be My First Epic Work. My teacher, who was clearly Neal Cassady living under the pseudonym Fred Tremallo after retiring from CIA, upon reading the first thirty pages, approved. Then my disk began to corrupt. I have attempted many times to write a poetic description of this harrowing ordeal, but words fail me, like that disk failed me. Arachne spun her web in my 5 1/4" drive. I even brought my disk to my teacher's office - he was quite the computer wiz for an old dude, probably picked it up at the Agency - and we watched together as the bits disappeared from the disk. He asked if I could recreate the lost works. But the words never came out quite the same way again. And I never felt the same passion for the project. It broke my heart. Just thinking about the very idea of home hurt like a bad breakup. Somehow I feel like an expert in the idea of home because I spent so much time with it that one year so long ago. And even though thinking about home hurts, I've thought about it ever since. The one conclusion I can retrieve from the wreckage is this: A house is not a home.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

A friend of mine is moving from the house in which he married his wife, in which his daughter was born, and it's breaking his heart. It wasn't his choice. His landlord terminated their lease. I want to console my friend. I want to tell him that his marriage will endure, his daughter will not miss the place. I sought some factual basis for my argument (doesn't everyone craft their condolences like they craft an argument?). The closest thing I found was this article by Carol Lloyd The American dream and our conception of home about a contest and survey conducted by Coldwell Banker. Ms. Lloyd pointedly states:

By linking home ownership to invisible forces like love and family and tradition and happiness, we've all bought into a powerful yet sometimes destructive myth.

Renting a house instead of owning a house does not mean you have less of a home. Renting does not make you unAmerican. 95% of Americans were at one time or are now renters.
The closest I got to an answer to the question of whether his daughter will be somehow damaged by living in a house other than the one in which she was born, the survey results included this little nugget:

When asked what makes a house a home, the most popular responses from adults were: "family" (60 percent) and "love" (47 percent), followed by "family time." This matched the children’s top three responses of "family," "love" and "memories," demonstrating that adults and children are aligned on the core values that make a house a home.

Can a home you weren't born in have memories attached to it? I hope so. I couldn't pick the house I was born in out of a lineup.

Click here to return to Gnomicon home page