My husband and I have made three homes together after living with others in other places. To make a home with another requires that you decide together what constitutes home itself. We talked about where we would prefer to live (someplace warm close to water) and where we would never willingly go (those square states landlocked in the middle of the country). We talked about the type of house we’d like and the type of neighborhood, the kind of people we’d enjoy being near, the kind of schools our kids would attend, the shops, restaurants, and services we wanted to have nearby.
So many factors go into making a place feel like home, and when you’re choosing a home with another person, you begin to realize that home does not mean the same thing to everyone. Maybe a better way to say it is that everyone is looking for something different in a home place.
I often think about the possible reasons why a person needs this or that to feel at home in a place. What kinds of things influence these preferences?
Childhood is an obvious influence, causing many people to either search for or actively avoid a home that reminds them of the one they grew up in. The type of environment a person became familiar with as a child also informs where that adult chooses to live: city vs. country, homogeneous vs. diverse.
There are people who never leave the neighborhood where they grew up, who will never even imagine leaving. There are people who find a new place to settle, then stay there for decades. There are people who never stay in one place for more than a couple of years. There are people who choose not to buy a house even though they can afford to. There are people who won’t go as far as renting a permanent space.
What makes one person need to be on a shore and another on a mountainside? Why is one person drawn to high rises and another to farm homes?
Within a home itself there are questions of layout, functionality, furniture style and arrangement, wall color, flooring material, decorative objects, conveniences.
Some claim we may carry ancestral memories that influence the choices we make in our lives today. Do my husband and I both prefer warm, coastal places because ancestors of ours lived in southern Europe near large seas? Do the rocky shorelines of New England appeal to me because of a latent memory passed down from my ancestors who lived in the British Isles? How much of what we long for in a home place is primal instinct?
The one thing we may all agree on is that it feels good to be in a place that feels like home, whatever home means to each of us. Home is ultimately that place where we most want to be.