My husband and I recently started looking into buying a home, and a funny thing started happening as we walked through the houses with our realtor: we got snippy with each other over stuff that didn’t matter. I’ve heard all the stories about couples fighting over whether or not to buy a particular house, but I honestly wasn’t expecting that to happen to us.
For the most part my husband and I want the same things in a home, and we’re pretty good at finding compromises to make us both happy. The odd thing was that we didn’t fight over anything big–we didn’t even fight over anything related to the houses we were looking at. Just tiny, stupid matters like how hot it was last summer and which one of us is more allergic to lilacs. Maybe it was because we were tired and a bit sore after walking through house after house, or maybe it was just the stress of trying to find a good home in our price range. Or maybe it was because we both know that we can’t afford what we truly want.
Ultimately, we want to leave the city. I dream of modest acreage with a view of the mountains, somewhere I can indulge my love for nature. I want to be able to lie in my yard at night and see the hazy river of the Milky Way stretching across an ocean of numberless, jeweled stars. I want to be surprised by wild deer, turkeys, and quail sauntering past my bedroom window from time to time. I want sunshine and quietude and plenty of room to roam, things to combat the terrible claustrophobia that grips me on even the brightest days in the city.
Honestly, I think it’s because of how I first fell in love with the Pacific Northwest: in a place exactly like that, where all I had to do to drink in the beauties of nature was sit still and watch the world around me. That serenity, that calm joy, has become my definition of home, and I yearn for it terribly. But a place like that is simply out of our reach right now, so we must settle for making a home in the city, with all its noise and graceless appeal.
And yet I don’t want to settle. There’s a lesson I learned the day I finally released my grip on the central Texas landscape of my childhood and allowed myself to fall head-over-heels for the Pacific Northwest. It’s the kind of thing you hear a lot, but the truth of it never quite sinks in until you experience it for yourself: home is what you make of it. It’s not a mountain view, fresh air, and watching the stars at night. It’s not four bedrooms and two baths with a big kitchen and a cute nook for the dining table. It’s loving where you are, no matter where that happens to be, and it’s loving the ones you have made your life with. It’s repainting the walls your favorite shade of blue, inviting friends over for dinner, laughter and tears, memories forged from the most simple and ordinary things.
And so I lay aside the dream of leaving the city for now. It will be there later, when the time is right. For now, it is enough to know that I can choose to be happy wherever I am. Home is not a specific place on a map: it’s an attitude, a state of mind, a condition of the heart.