"Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify." - Henry David Thoreau

I know I said "blog like no one is reading" but it's nice to know these people are

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What Makes a House a Home

I've finally changed the banner photo on this page since the snow is long gone and when we rode yesterday I noticed that the apple trees that were in the old picture are about to bloom. Time marches on whether we are ready or not. The photo I chose for the banner is one I scanned on the weekend when I spent the day at my Mum's house looking through old albums. We are putting together a Memory Book for her 70th birthday later this month and I was in charge of discreetly making copies of her pictures. I gave up on the discreet and finally told her I needed to dig out all the albums. We sat together as I scanned and laughed and talked about the pictures. She and her parents were avid photographers although, truth be told, they took fantastic nature shots but crappy shapshots. Many of them were original 3x3 prints and not great quality but my brother who is putting together the book assures me he can "antique" them or something so they look cool, not out of focus.

It was a bittersweet day, my parents divorced 15 years ago after 32 years of marriage and no one ever really understood why. It was hard going through all the old family photos especially the ones of them together. They were so young, my Mum was only 24 when I was born and I realized as I looked through the years that she only a year older than I am now when I got married.

The photo is of the farmhouse where I grew up in one of its earliest incarnations. It was added on to many times, the front porch was redone in a style more befitting its Georgian roots and the gardens became more and more elaborate. I love the photo because it shows how simple things were when my parents first moved us out of the city to what most people then considered the sticks (it's now hemmed in by subdivisions). Mum stayed there after my Dad moved out for a few more years before she sold it and built a new house. The farm was the most incredible place, the centre of our world no matter how far we travelled (see previous post). My Other Half and I moved back in several times in between houses and my Mum made sure we always had a room. She actually left our childhood rooms much as they were when we were growing up. My had the same striped wallpaper and floral trim along the ceiling, the only change was she put in a queen sized bed for us.

Last night I asked my kids for their memories of the farm where they spent weekends and holidays with their grandmother. It's strange to think that they don't associate it with my Dad even though he was one the one who physically created it while Mum gave it soul. He was the engine and she was the heart. He built the riding ring, taught me to drive standard in the back field while she threw wonderful parties and welcomed all our friends. We used to joke about the "broken wings" Dad would find and bring home for Mum to look after. People having a tough time in life who would come to the farm and stay for as long as they needed to. Dad would travel, climb mountains, write books about it then return home to sit by the fire and talk with us or be at the head of the table expounding on his views while she was close by in the kitchen with friends putting together wonderful meals or making sure there were fresh flowers in the bedrooms.

Now that I am a wife, mother and have my own house I appreciate all the more what my Mum created at the farm. As a high school friend of mine said when I asked a few of them for their memories of Mum,

"We always knew that everyone was welcome at the farm, you never knew who would be there as it was a place people passed through, stayed to heal or came to feel the energy of the fun nights. That spirit of acceptance that Swebbs embodied permeated the farm and meant that, by extension, we all somehow felt that you could be yourself."

I worry that our house and, by extension, me are not that welcoming and accepting place for my kids and their friends which I know is so important as we go into the turbulent teenage years. My OH and I say that we want the boys to always be able to call home for a ride or help and we wouldn't question them. My parents created a safe haven for so many people but most importantly for my brother, sister and I and it's so important that we do the same for our children. And I know it's not the physical place that is important, it wasn't the farm because it had lots of bedrooms for people to crash or an indoor swimming pool or a barn full of toys. It was the feeling that my parents created whicheveryone experienced when they visited whether for an afternoon, overnight or a month. I've used the phrase "A Sense of Place" as a label for some posts but it was more than just the place, a farm is just a farm, a cottage just a cottage and an house isn't a home unless someone makes it one.


  1. What a wonderful past to cherish. Now I’m wondering – have I made a home where everyone feels so welcome – and safe? Yes, but not to the extent your parents did. My children certainly consider home a “safe haven” (and still do…) but I’m definitely not famous among their friends as having THE place to be. (Although when they all had friends over, the noise level made it seem so.)

    As long as I provided – and still offer - a safe, supportive and loving environment for my children, I’m content. And based on your posts, you have certainly created such a home for your family.

    Love the new banner -- what a gorgeous place!

  2. I love your banner- that house looks great and it must have been a wonderful place to live. I've recently gone through a lot of old slides to get them scanned for family members and tried to get labels for as many as possible. After my parents are gone, no one will be able to place some of those for us.

    While I wasn't terribly comfortable with having my kids' friends over (being very much an introvert) they must have felt comfortable, since we had several 'extra' kids living here for a few months now and then, when they needed a place to stay, and home wasn't working out.


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