There hasn't been a more appropriate time than during a global pandemic lockdown to reflect on the meaning and value of home. This theme has stuck with me since I was in high school when I was trying to narrow down my concentration for my AP Art Portfolio exam. At the time I created numerous sketches of "memories" which I was told was too vague to become my concentration. I was stuck and I played with various ideas in class, but I found my thoughts wandering to family and the sadness I was feeling at the time from the recent passing of my grandmother, "Grammy"- she was the first really close relative I had lost. Often my best work has come spilling out of me in a overflow of emotion- it comes without pre planned sketches or thoughts. Without any plans I began furiously painting my grandparent's farmhouse, the house that my father grew up in and had become a staple of my childhood. I painted the winding rocky driveway, the stone walls, the red barn with the family tree painted on the side. I painted my grandfather raking while we filled large jack-o-lantern bags with leaves. I made sketches of my sister jumping between the two beds in the room with the ticking clock. All of the drawings and paintings were memories tied to a place I had called another home. My high school art teacher asked, "Is this your house?" and I told her "No, it's my grandparent's house, and we are about to sell it because no one in the family is able to buy it...my grandmother just passed away and my grandfather is in a nursing home and can't stay there alone." Her face crumpled with empathy..."That's your concentration Darling."
My grandfather died shortly after I finished my portfolio and the house has haunted me since. It was a hard time for our family and still hurts to think about losing the house that held so many memories. As I grew up I had experienced many "homes", places that felt like home, and I experienced heartbreaking loss, of not only people I loved, but the places that encompassed their presence, and the presence of my memories. I circled back to this same theme for my graduate school thesis. It was like a persistent itch that kept reappearing under scarred skin. I constructed a dollhouse and created rooms representing the memories and feelings of homes lost. Each room marked a part and place of my life, from my early childhood to my first apartment. I was contacted recently by my professor and she wanted to feature my work in a research paper. I happily gave her permission to use my thesis. Working through this project and the subsequent paper gave me creative closure, but the ending is still unknown.
I think about the homes I've had and what each represented. I think about my first apartment where I struggled to pay the bills on my own, but I had my own little window herb garden and that made me feel like I was getting it together. I remember visiting my boyfriend (now husband) in Rhode Island at his basic bachelor pad with minimal decoration where I would get butterflies every time he asked what kind of chips I wanted at the grocery store, because it meant he was envisioning our future snacking together. From our humble first starter home to our new dream home that we are slowly customizing and filling with new memories, home has transcended for me from a place to a feeling; a comfort that feels like the ultimate thirst being quenched.
Now I sit in our upstairs office surrounded by paint cans and tools because we are in the middle of remodeling this room, and the dollhouse sits next me, it's saying: "Hey, now that you're happy at home, don't forget the homes that made you."