The patterned walls, colorful rugs, and perfectly sized furniture were all I needed. My imagination held that world. I would move the family members from room to room according to the stories in my head. I was grateful when I was able to bring others into that world. For example, my mother would sew tiny curtains for the windows. My brother’s toy car would sit in front of the house, and sometimes he would allow me to use his plastic soldiers as house guests. Occasionally, they became relatives. I would put tiny bits of bread on the kitchen table and assemble the family there. I named the dog Spot. I had an endless supply of scenarios that took place in that home. It was a safe, cozy place for the most part, but once in a while an intruder would try to break in. The father would always scare him off. Since I had only the one house, there were no issues with neighbors.
Distractions, such as my mother’s call, my baby sister’s cry, or my brother’s bouncing ball would instantly take me away from that 2-by-2 foot home made of tin. I don’t remember when or how I got rid of it. Other priorities took over. As my father’s job demanded, our family moved from house to house and state to state. Each move followed a regular pattern of letting go. I was fine with that. Although somewhat shy, I adjusted to strange places and found new friends. I moved on. Over the years, I earned degrees, progressed in my career, and joined community organizations. I have enjoyed the challenges I chose for myself. I mostly live in the present and plan for the future.
Sometimes the oddest things come back to me in memory. The smell of cinnamon cooking puts me right back in my grandmother’s kitchen in rural Pennsylvania. My great-grandmother, whom I referred to as my “little grandmother” because of her short stature, is there as well.
Today is Sunday, and at this moment I am sitting on the sofa in the living room of the home I never plan to leave. We just finished breakfast. My husband is watching the news on TV. Our dog is curled up on the tiles in front of the fireplace. I hold in my hand the sample of quartz we are considering for the counter in our soon-to-be-updated kitchen. This will be yet another challenge I look forward to.
Now my perspective is once again changing. As I near retirement, the idea of home is ever more dear to me. I soon won’t be rushing away most mornings and spending my energy on matters related to academic administration. I will still be involved in the community; however, there will be fewer outside distractions to occupy my mind. I look down at the patterned rugs on our living room floor and around me at the colorful framed paintings on the walls. I smile. As I gaze at objects nearby, I recall each story — the print I bought in Quito, Ecuador, the vase I brought back from Budapest. These stories are true. My life experiences created them. The small piece of quartz I hold in my hand will be part of a future story, one filled with expert craftspeople. My imagination is once again focused on home — our real home.
Linda Mishkin, an administrator at Harvard University and president of the Brighton-Allston Historical Society, lives with her husband, Paul, and dog, Tyler, in Brighton. Send comments and a 550-word essay on your first home to Address@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.