This Is Home
by Tina Ann Forkner
Sometimes, my husband and I are overwhelmed by the things we need to do to keep this house in order. Right now, we have a broken light fixture, some wall trim that we haven’t had time to finish, a door that the kids accidentally broke five—or maybe ten—years ago, a few doors that need to be repainted, a bathroom that needs a makeover and walls that need touching up. Oh, let’s just be honest. It’s too late for touching up. These walls already need to be completely repainted.
We had big plans for this house when we first moved in with our three young kids. It was a nice house, located in a nice neighborhood and was close to good schools. While some things about the house were outdated, we could easily fix them with a little bit of elbow grease and time; because of course, parents of young families always think there will someday be more time. The family who lived in the house before us had raised their kids in it, and we occasionally came across little clues about them, such as forgotten glow-in-the dark stickers on the ceiling when we turned off the light and scuffs on the floor that the neighbors across the street said were from children rollerblading in the house. These things were more endearing than annoying, as well as easy to fix, so I took them as affirmations that it was a good house for raising children in. We still needed to make it our own, but to me it already felt like home.
For me, the house was the nicest house I had ever lived in. It wasn’t extravagant at around 2200 square feet, including the finished half basement, and it wasn’t in some elite neighborhood, but it already felt more like home than any of the tiny apartments, rental houses or military base housing where I’d lived in the past. My parents would love seeing me in this house, I remember thinking, and I couldn’t wait for them to visit.
My husband and I didn’t waste any time making the home our own, and we weren’t in it long before we had replaced all the light fixtures, painted the walls, upgraded the bathrooms, replaced the cabinets and redid the floors. My parents did love it when they came to see us, and I felt a sense of peace that they approved, knowing it gave them peace, as well. One of the things my parents had always hoped for each of their children was that they’d be able to own a good house someday—something just a little bit nicer than what they’d had the opportunity to have themselves.
Before sitting down to write this article, I asked my mom if I could write about the house she and my dad have lived in since I was a little girl. She said, “Well of course. We are not ashamed of where we live. We raised three great kids in this home.” I never once mentioned anything to her about being embarrassed, but my mom’s a smart gal. She knew why I was asking.
My parents’ place is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s out in the country on a gorgeous little piece of land surrounded by a forest of oak trees and a sprawling green yard. It’s the kind of place someone chooses who wants to stay put, who wants to have a nice home and raise a family. Their plan was to build a house there one day, so in the mean time they put a mobile home on the property and moved in. Unfortunately, as the years went by, their plans were interrupted by my dad’s illness and they struggled to make ends meet. The trailer house became more than a temporary dwelling to them. Now that I’m grown and I’ve seen how life gets in the way—we’ve replaced our light fixtures twice now—I can envision how it probably happened. Their dream of building a house probably slipped away little by little, day by day, as they were trying to keep a busy and complex life going as they raised three kids together. I imagine that with each dollar they let go of for basketball shoes, school trips and band instruments, they let go of a little piece of their dream to build a house. And after a while, their temporary abode became a permanent home. My dad built a stone path for my mom, and a deck, and eventually another deck when the old one needed replaced. Mom planted flowers, and they tended their yard just like anyone else would. Their trailer really did become more than just a house. It was a beautiful home where they raised three happy kids.
I just need to say, though, to us kids, it was always home. That’s the thing about kids. They are happy wherever their parents are. When I was a child, I never felt different than anyone else because we lived in a mobile home. I loved our house; and inside, it felt just as good or better than anyone else’s house. One thing my mom did to make our house homey was to decorate it. She always had a knack for home décor. The way she installed carpet, put up wallpaper and hung curtains made guests forget they were in a mobile home, if they had even thought about it at all.
To my mom, her house was worth the time, and I remember she made a serious effort to make it feel like a home. But even better than her talent at making a tiny trailer a place of beauty was her talent at creating family times through homecooked meals. I have borrowed this piece of homemaking from my mom, and I know for a fact it brings my family together, just the way it did when I was a kid. Now that I’m grown, what I remember is a place where we all wanted to be, and a place where our friends wanted to be as well. My mom knew not to underestimate the power of homemade cookies, a pot of chili and on special occasions, a pizza from town. My life living in a trailer was not much different than the lives of my friends, and in some cases, it was probably better.
It’s not that I was completely isolated from reality or anything like that. I wasn’t raised to think that living in a mobile home is what everyone else did. As I entered high school, I of course noticed that while a lot of people in our small town did live in mobile homes, many people had regular houses. I don’t recall caring though. Most everything about our home seemed very normal to me. It wasn’t until I left home and lived in cities and did some traveling that I discovered the house I grew up in was not considered normal by some. That’s why when I asked my mom if I could write about her house to show people what a beautiful home my parents made for their family, I was on some level worried that while I was not embarrassed, she might be. It turns out that I need not have bothered her with the question. She raised her three kids in that house and she’s grateful for it, and she has a reason to be. That house is still home to me, because that’s what my parents turned it into.
Something that comes to my mind when I think about the home my parents live in is a verse I might have heard from my grandmother, who lived in a regular house down the road, but even smaller than my parents’ mobile home. It’s from Psalms 127 and says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…” Now that I’m an adult with my own hopes and dreams, thwarted plans and kids that grew up before we could fix all the broken things and replace them with something nicer than what we started with, I realize that my parents didn’t just give up on their dream. They filled what they had with love and faith and made happiness out of broken things. They didn’t labor in vain, but made the house a home.
Now that the kids are headed off to college, my husband and I have plans to catch up on all our home repairs, but I must admit that sometimes I look around and think, what’s the point now? Maybe we should just fix the basics and let the scuffed-up floors and banged up walls remind us that this has been a good house to raise our family in. When the grandkids come along, we can just tell them, that’s where their dad hit the wall with a light saber or that’s where their mom practiced her art and missed the page.
I love beautiful things, and I watch HGTV as much as the next person does, dreaming about making things better, lovelier and nicer to live in. But more often than I used to, I stop and think about my parents and I am reminded that just like them, I already have a home. I had one from the beginning when my parents filled my life with love and faith, and I have one now, even with all the broken things we need to fix, and we filled it with the same things. That’s why this is home.
Tina Ann Forkner wrangles words on the pages of her novels and kids in the classroom as a substitute teacher. She lives in Wyoming with her husband, who knows when to wear a cowboy hat, and three teenagers who never do (even if she thinks they should). Learn more about Tina at her website: www.tinaannforkner.com
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