I’m sitting here listening to the rain falling outside. It is currently a gentle, intermittent rain with the overcast sky making the world outside somewhat dark. I fed the not so stray cats earlier when it wasn’t raining, and the dogs are resting on the front porch yet ever on guard against anything that may look suspicious. Stray cat? Bark. Person walking? Bark. The wind blowing? Molly barks, Bella ignores. I, as I mentioned, am sitting here inside this house. I have my coffee, I am yet to dress for the day, I am content. I am home.
What changes the designation of a house to home? In fact, what changes it to any of the designations it may hold? Obviously, it is what goes on within, usually.
A house can be a house of worship, or a house of ill repute. It can be a house of higher learning or a crack house. It can be a home, or it can be a prison. It can be a safe place, or a nightmare. Because of what goes on within the walls.
A house can be any size, any color, constructed out of a great variety of materials. It can be elaborate or simple. Build in a development, or somewhere way out in the back country. Filled with magazine worthy furnishings, or the finds in a thrift shop.
Materially, it is a house, a building. It may have a character in its appearance, but the inside gives it personality or notoriety.
Many, many, many years ago when I was a youth growing up here on this one lane, dead end, dirt road, there was an old house at the far end. It sat abandoned and falling in on itself. At some point, someone had agreed to allow barrels to be stored around the house. Nature was slowly taking back what it had loaned out. Once, it had been a home. Once a family had lived there, enjoying the things life offered. Then tragedy struck and from tales shared, the only daughter of the family went on a trip and was murdered. That changed everything. The family moved away and the land was basically abandoned. Eventually even the many barrels were cleared away and the land left to the movement of nature.I remember as a child being told to stay away, it was dangerous in its condition. I remember being told it was haunted. The house long gone now, as it my youth, but not the memories.
I remember years back when I lived in Louisiana and we were returning to North Carolina to visit friends and family. We somehow managed to get off the interstate and drove down along the coast line of the gulf. As a passenger I watched the buildings we passed by. Many once appeared to be old plantation type homes, but the decor made the mind think the present was far removed from the past. I later made a comment that they looked to be houses of ill repute. The person I was talking with laughed at me, telling me they were. My naivete was obvious and to them hilarious.
I have seen, and been a participant of when people would have worship in their home. Inviting friends inside to enjoy shared moments of learning.
And yet, an ordinary, every day house, can hide nightmares. Remember those years back when they discovered three missing women, held prisoner in a normal appearing house, in a normal neighborhood. For ten years they had been held, until one managed to escape.
How many children are abused, tortured, killed in the place that should be safe? How many children, wish to escape, to never again enter into a building where only good things should take place? How many wives, partners, girlfriends are face the nightmare of the many forms of abuse? How many men suffer, but would not admit due to embarrassment?
I’m sitting here, comfortable and safe in the house I grew up in. The home where we were loved and happy. My brothers and I argued and battled as siblings sometimes do, but we also loved deeply. As I sit here, I consider the above. I think of the buildings that my son and I passed Saturday night. Apartments, town homes, condos, call them what you will. In my arrogance of country living, I called them people barns, each with their own stalls. But I wonder, inside those walls, is there love or fear? Is there peace, or harm? So many residents in such a small area, so much possible safety or danger.
Life is precious, a gift, a treasure. A house, a home, should be a safe place. Not a place of hurt and fear.
While a part of me understands privacy as I cherish and protect mine, I also know that we need to be aware of what goes on around us. We need to watch and listen and try to know our neighbors. To watch the children and the elderly. To know, when something isn’t right and that home, is a house with an outside image that hides what goes on within.