There’s no place like home, or so they say. Ain’t it mostly true? When you’re sick and away from home, the main thing on your mind is usually just wanting to get back to your spot, your comfort zone. Like a hurt dog retreating to his little place to nurse his wounds. Home is the place that just being there is a relief.
We love home because we know it so well. Being able to predict your environment lends itself to a feeling of safety. We know our homes like we know ourselves, and if you live in an older home, you know all the idiosyncrasies of it.
Older houses have more personality, cantankerous though they may sometimes be. The original part of my home is about 100 years old now, but it somehow lacks the charm of large, older farm houses you see sometimes. It’s not the classic two-story, old, white farm house. It’s just a little old thing that we built on to. Plumbing and electricity were added later, and the pipes hanging to be seen on the kitchen wall prove it.
What I optimistically refer to as charm might more often be called a pain in the rear. Out here in our little shack, the water is in and out. The well feeds the whole valley for about a mile, including several houses and many watering troughs for cows. When there is a busted water line…good luck. You would have a better chance of finding the end of pi than the root of the problems we face. We put a band-aid on it and hope for the best and tackle the next disaster when it arises.
The foundation was once so open and crumbling that we had skunks under the house. I THINK that is remedied, but as it is with old houses, critters will always find a way. The older part of the house has been rent free for moles, ground squirrels, and even bats. Never mind mice, that’s a given. Oh, and the snakes. We can’t forget the snakes. But love her still, I do.
I’ve tried over the years, with my redneck ingenuity, to fix the open freeways that the not-so-quaint wildlife were using to make habitance in my abode. By the way, my dictionary tells me that habitance is not a word, but if Billy Shakespeare can make up words, then by gosh, so can I. This is America and stuff.
You know how country folks are prone to keeping a bunch of junk around their place? Some might call it trash, but we few know how to make use of stuff that others would call garbage. More than once, I have scavenged around the shed behind my house to find boards, parts of old furniture, blocks of wood, and even old screens to block the entry-ways of these aggressive home invaders. I know my way around a can of that spray foam stuff now, and a square hay bale works well for insulation, too. I think so far I have won the war. Now it doesn’t look very neat, but I’m landlocked in a cornfield about a quarter mile off the road, and no one comes up here but friends anyway, so…who am I trynna impress?
Every home has its own sounds. I recall as a young adult, sleeping over at friend’s house and being quite disturbed in the night by an unknown noise. When I asked, they assured me it was just the icemaker in their fridge. While I thought it sounded much more like a lurking boogeyman, I took their word for it and somehow survived.
When I lived at Mommy and Daddy’s growing up, I remember how I could tell who was coming upstairs by the sound of the feet on the wooden steps. Daddy’s were hard and slow. Hash’s and Dayton’s were faster. Mommy’s were lighter. These are intimate things you notice without trying over the years. They are part of your home. It is the same now in my home. I know my boys’ steps; the middle boy never gets in a hurry, but the youngest runs everywhere.
The boys’ bedrooms are all on the second floor, two of them above my own. I can hear the floor creak as they walk above me as I lay in bed. I know if they’re still up, and I’ve been known to yell, “Get in the bed!” There is also the phenomenon of the speaker the middle boy likes to use to listen to his music. He sits it on the floor, and you can hear the thump in the living room downstairs like you’re inside a drum. Good times.
The dog’s claws on the hardwood floor tell us where he is in the house, unless he’s in a room with carpet, and then if you listen you can hear the rattle of his collar. When it’s quiet, I can hear him sigh. The washing machine, the dryer, the fridge, and even the heater in the kitchen have their distinct noises that are somehow comforting because they are all a part of this place I call home.
Some mornings, when the middle boy is up first, I can hear the distinctive sound of his placing the decanter in the coffee pot, and I smile inwardly. He’s fixing the joe! The sound of the shower running in the boys’ bathroom tells me one of them is in there, as I walk to the kitchen for an evening snack. In the winter, I love to hear the sound of the fire in the fireplace and the beautiful-white-noise symphony of the blower that lulls me to sleep on my so, so comfy couch. The rain on the tin roof does the same, and as I write this, I hear the sound of the peepers outside.
Everyone’s home has its own smell. As a kid, I asked my friend once what our house smelled like and she said, “Well…manure.” And it did. All those work boots will do that, not to mention a proximity to cows and the barn. But that was home, and I do not mind the smell of manure at all. It’s the hallmark of my people and my place.
My own home no longer smells of the mouse I wrote about weeks ago. I’m not sure what it smells like, as I am no doubt nose-blind to it. I do notice the smells when I cook or when something is burned. There is one room that we normally keep shut off, to cut down on heating costs, and when I go in there, it has a very old-house smell. You know the one; it is hard to describe. I guess that’s what my house would smell like if we didn’t live here.
Your home is the physical manifestation of all your memories and decisions and people whom you’ve known. If you didn’t choose to live there, then your parents did, and it is no doubt decorated with things that have stories. Family pieces of furniture, pictures on walls, paintings, knickknacks, and heirlooms. Your home is your safe place where you are not judged, but most at peace, perhaps.
My home has its problems. I shall refrain from continuing to list them. Mostly it needs to be neater, but I’m all right with it. It is my mess, and these are my things. My home is full of stuff, but it’s also full of love, and it is warm. And there’s no place like it.
A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.