Home is Where My Heart Is
by Melody Carlson
I’m sure my vagabond childhood is somewhat responsible for my adult obsession of house and home. I was born in San Francisco (to parents who never should’ve married or had children) and due to my dad’s alcoholism, which led to poverty, dysfunction and divorce, our family lived in a number of rather unsettling dwellings. Including my aunt’s musty mousey attic for about a year. We finally moved into a small rundown rental property. It was there I took over my older sister’s abandoned dollhouse. Made of rickety metal with traces of rust, the Cape Cod had been relegated to a dusty corner of the front porch. But I adored that little habitat and worked hard to clean it, furnishing it with homemade pieces as well as a makeshift “family” I assembled of mismatched dolls, small enough to fit into the miniature rooms.
I think it was during those years that I began to nurture a secret dream that included two basic elements—a lovely home and a loving husband—similar to the reruns I watched of Leave it to Beaver. I’m not quite sure why I kept my homey little dream a secret. Perhaps because my mother was a single working woman with little respect for men or marriage. Or perhaps it was simply the era—women were expected to pursue careers and independence, not husbands and children and homes. But as I grew older, I eventually discarded my domestic dream—or so it seemed.
But let’s…fast forward. God entered my life as a teen and, after college and teaching preschool overseas and traveling around the world (all within a short amount of time), I met my husband-to-be Christopher while we were both volunteering in youth ministry. We fell in love and, without any solid plans for our future, got engaged. We both had fulltime jobs but still lived in our parents’ homes. And it wasn’t until about a month before our wedding that we realized we didn’t even know where we were going to live as a married couple. But we believed that God would lead us…and take care of us. And, of course, He did.
I still remember every single thing about our first apartment. And it was all perfect. Not because it was expensive or fancy, but because it was furnished with love and creativity. From the long sofa (which I’d rescued and gotten reupholstered in off-white) to the wooden antique pieces (handed down from my grandma) to the thirty-something potted plants (I’d been nurturing) it all came together like a decorator had been there. I splurged to buy a pretty table lamp and made batik pillows for the sofa. I matted and framed Van Gogh prints I’d picked up in Amsterdam to adorn our walls, and I filled pieces of rustic pottery (handmade by my sister) with pretty branches or grasses or flowers or fruit, setting them here and there. I sewed colorful table linens and a bedspread and other things. I loved the opportunity to make that apartment into our home. I loved lighting candles and spending time with my husband. It was obvious that love lived there.
Well, as I mentioned, we weren’t much for planning. We didn’t plan to get pregnant. And we didn’t plan on having to depart from our lovely first home because of the “no children” rule. But when the time came, we moved. And once again, this time thanks to my husband’s expertise at painting and fixing (combined with my decorating skills) we claimed a rundown rental as our new nest and turned it into a thing of humble beauty. Because one thing we did plan for—right from the start of our marriage—is that we would always leave a place better than we found it. We discovered that this wasn’t only true for the homes we lived in, but for our relationship as well. Two things can happen to a marriage during a home improvement project—it can drive you apart or bond you together. And, although we had our fair share of fights over silly things like paint colors or techniques, we learned to work together. We learned to respect each other’s gifts and skills.
We swapped rent for home improvements a couple more times, ultimately helping us to purchase our first home (also a fixer-upper). So it was that, while parenting two young boys, we painted, landscaped, fenced, re-roofed, repaired, re-surfaced, refinished…and so on. And this all happened long before HGTV and Home Depot. So here we are more than 35 years, seven fixer houses, and countless DIY projects later. Thanks to God, my childhood dream of a loving husband and lovely home came true. But it didn’t come true without a lot of hard work—both on our homes and on our marriage.
We currently live in a unique lodge-style home that’s been completely rebuilt from top to bottom over the past twenty years. It’s got hickory floors, cherry cabinets, and loads of windows and lots of charm. And we love it. But it’s not our only abode. We totally restored a small beach cabin that we adore as well. We feel very, very blessed. And, after all these years and all these renovation decisions, we’re so much in sync that we rarely disagree over a project anymore. I guess we just trust each other.
And, believe it or not, we’re preparing to embark on yet another big project—God willing that is. We’ve placed our main house on the market and are looking to start all over again. We’ve got our eye on a fixer upper close to town, and we’re hoping to create a new home that we can grow old together in. It won’t be as beautiful as the wonderful house we live in now, but I know that won’t matter. Because what I’ve discovered over the years is that as long as I’m with Chris (and God goes with us everywhere) I can be at home wherever I am. Home truly is where the heart is.
P.S. If you want a sneak peek at the home we’ve listed to sell, click here.