The Sweetness of Home

home_by_falsehope04

[Image by FalseHope04 at Deviant Art.]

The French philosopher, Simone Weil is noted for talking about how important having roots, of having a home is to the human psyche.
To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.

Home –

where the heart is

safe haven

nowhere sweeter

a place to keep the rest of the world at bay

Knowing that home awaits you at the end of the day is a comfort that is inexpressible in many ways. The familiarity, not just of having your things about you, but of the way the kitchen floorboards creak when you put the kettle on, the broken sash on the living room window that squeaks like a mouse having its tail pulled when you close it, knowing how to jiggle the lock on the back door; seeing the jacaranda tree leave purple blossom trails on the grass – that is comfort, that is belonging.

Even if it is not your own house, even if it belongs to someone else and you pay them to live there, you are still able to establish the sense of belonging that familiarity brings. It is that sense of rootedness that nourishes our souls.

So what happens when it all goes wrong?

We are all aware, we can all see, the number of homeless people in our society, the unforgivable statistic. That is something we must address as a society as a whole, but there is another group of people on the rise, a faster growing statistic than even the homeless – former homeowners affected by the economic downturn who are now renters, or lodgers, or living in temporary accommodation with family and friends.

What happens when a large component of society loses its sense of rootedness? What happens when a growing minority of people becomes disaffected? Should we wonder? Should we even care?

I rent my house. I discuss with friends who are also renters the trepidation we face whenever our leases come up for renewal. Our houses may not be perfect but we would rather stay where we are than move once a year. That is the one major disadvantage of renting. At any time you could be out.

Now, for the first time in as long as I can remember, homeowners are faced with the same kind of uncertainty. As jobs are cut and personal debt mounts, holding a mortgage is no longer as safe a bet as it used to be. Many people I know used to say to me : ‘I am going to grow old in this house.’ Now they are not so sure.

I ran into an old neighbour of mine at the shops today. She had just bought a raincoat. In the middle of summer. ‘It’s not even raining,’ I said.

She was getting prepared. For bringing in the washing. Her husband was retrenched three months ago. They have had to sell their house. They are moving to a rented house. She is taking in washing to make ends meet.

That is where the raincoat comes in. The rented house has the washing line right at the end of the garden. It is a long, skinny garden. The washing line is three hundred steps away. She will leave the raincoat on a peg by the back door to collect the washing if it rains. Three hundred steps there and back is too long without a raincoat in the torrential Sydney weather.

‘The washing line in my old house was only ten steps,’ she said. ‘I could do it in two jumps if I wanted to. I rarely got wet.’

She looked sad. She looked like she had nowhere to go.

‘You’ll get used to it,’ I said. ‘The new house. It doesn’t take long once all your things are in to feel like home.’

‘I suppose so,’ she said.’ But it’ll never really be mine, will it?’

I wanted to say that even if she owned the house, depending on the size of her loan, it might never have been hers. Depending on the size of her loan, she might only have owned the front door and an eighth of the hallway. But I couldn’t.

I said the only thing I could say.

Home is where the heart is.

And in these troubled times, that phrase rings true more than ever.

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12 thoughts on “The Sweetness of Home

  1. Oh Selma, you have no idea how much this resonates with me tonight. I know that all the trees I have just planted will never reach maturity before I have to leave this house. The only thing that I do know for sure is that wherever I end up will be home because of the people who will share it with me.

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  2. Selma, how poignant. This post takes me in so many directions. The “home” is an interesting thing because it is such a reflection of where we are in life, metaphorically, or in reality.

    When my life is a mess, my home is a mess. When I feel worthless, my house begins to fall apart. Literally.

    So what happens when we are dispossessed of this part of ourselves? So few of us have nomad in our blood. We like roots. We crave routine. What are we to do? I don’t know. I feel out of control because other than donating food, clothes — how can I help those in need?

    And the other point which is brilliant, is that do we ever really own our homes? Once the mortgage is paid, we still must pay property taxes and adhere to village building codes and regulations, etc.

    I have been really pondering if I own my home, or if it owns me? It is requiring more and more in repair and I do not have the funds to address.

    Stressing out about how I will pay for this or that, knowing full well that if it’s not addressed, it will only get worse — is not fully living.

    How wonderful it must have been in the pioneer days to just set stake somewhere, build a home of your liking and stay as long as you like…

    Love and hugs,
    L

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  3. Of course your words moved my very core. Home IS the most important place On Earth. I fear for those who may loose all they have worked for in this ever so declining economy.

    When I ‘lost’ my condo due to medical and health issues, I was never more sad in all of my life. Fortunately, I have fabulous parents that took me in. However,m it took a while for me to feel like I was AT HOME. Even now, sometimes I long for the days when I lived ALONE in my condo with MY THINGS the way I WANTED it.

    “What happens when a large component of society loses its sense of rootedness?”

    I dont know. But I am worried that BAD things will arise.

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  4. I am scared of losing my job and not being able to keep the house. Gabe and I are working to build a little emergency fund in case things get difficult we have at least a few months of mortgage payments saved. Right now we have enough for three months. My goal would be to have a whole year of mortgage payments saved.

    I lived most of my childhood, college years and early adulthood in the same house (from 4 years old to 22). I hope I am able to live where I am for a long time.

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  5. Home… it means so much to us. I look around this small place and I know this is where I belong. I know that it means it’s all physical and that what really matters are the boys. Where they are, we are, is home… still this little house eh…

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  6. ROMANY – that is a shame. In my old house I planted this fantastic garden and a whole line of camellias running up the side of the house. You should have seen the various shades of pink.What did the the new owners do? They ripped the whole thing out and paved it. I thought I was going to have to be committed. I hope you do get to stay and see your trees grow.

    LURAGANO – it would have been wonderful in the pioneer days just to find a spot, claim it, and that was that. Of course they endured hardships, of that there is no doubt, but modern life seems just as hard, if not harder.

    I know what you mean about finding the money for repairs. The worry over that does begin to eat away at you. And the longer you leave it, the worse it gets.

    I don’t know what the answer is but somewhere along the way the whole home ownership thing has become a real mess. I do think the governments are to blame – for not regulating lending bodies properly, for all the property taxes they impose and for building housing estates (this particularly applies to Sydney) in the middle of nowhere where no one wants to live, so that those who do buy there discover the value of their property has plunged overnight. I fear owning your own home will become one of the great urban myths of the 21st century.

    MELEAH – I am so glad your parents were able to take you in. You really are fortunate. I’m sure you must long for your own space at times, but the good thing is you always have that support around you now. That is something you can’t put a price on.

    I fear bad things will arise too, I really do. People who I thought were rock solid financially are in strife. I hope the grip of this recession eases soon. For all our sakes.

    JONAS – oh, absolutely. We all need that little spot with our bits and pieces to call home. It is essential.

    INGRID – I hope you are able to live in your house for as long as you want to, Ingrid. It sounds like you have a very sensible plan. To have that sense of security is so important for us mentally, isn’t it? I am going to keep my fingers crossed for you that it all works out.

    NAT – I know, hon. The boys are it for me too. But I would also like a wee patch of dirt that was mine. I think it’s just human nature!

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  7. You’ve brought up so many truths here Selma. And I totally agree, the problem of homelessness lurks closer to everyone’s door, these days. Frightening.

    Great post and LOVE the new look here, Hugs, G

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  8. I have always felt a bit placeless but yes, I have obviously had a place wherever I have lived. But I think I only felt that a couple of them were homely ie more than just a place to stay. One of my resolutions this year was to make my house more of a home as I think it might have a positive effect on me in other ways.

    But I would be completely stressed if I were living out of bags – I feel that when I am travelling, I hate it if I do not have a room as a base even for just a short space of time. I cannot imagine what it feels like to lose your home and to have to live on the streets or in someone else’s house.

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  9. GERALDINE:
    I was just playing around today. I am thinking of getting my blog hosted so I can have the look I want, but I am worried it may be too technical for me. We’ll see…

    There are frightening things going on out there. We all just have to hang in there and see what happens!!

    RELUCTANT BLOGGER:
    I think you will be surprised how much it will change your outlook if you make your place more homely. It’s sort of a ‘taking care of business’ thing. Living out of the bags would be the worst. So hard. So depressing. Let’s hope that is not our fate.

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  10. You know, I was just discussing this the other day, and wondering why we put on such pressure in the past for people to own their homes. It’s even got to the stage where homeowners look down somewhat on those who choose to rent.

    Yet, I have French and German friends who think nothing of renting their homes …

    I’d say, if you think of it so, it’s your home, whether you, the Building Society or your landlord own it. Mind you, we don’t have to renew leases (I think … although I did rent for a considerable time, my house always went with the job); the only way a landlord can get you out is if you fall into arrears on the rent, damage the property, use it for illegal or immoral purposes or the landlord wishes to live there himself.

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  11. TRAVELRAT:
    I have a friend who grew up in Germany and she cannot understand the Australian preoccupation with owning your own home. She came from a 99 year lease situation, so it never occurred to her or her family to try and buy a house. I think it puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on people.

    Let’s hope my landlord is happy with the way things are……

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