As per the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
House: a building that serves as living quarters for one or a few families, a shelter or refuge [as a nest or den] of a wild animal, a natural covering [as a test or shell] that encloses and protects an animal or a colony of zooids.
Home: one’s place of residence, the social unit formed by a family living together, a familiar or usual setting, congenial environment; also: the focus of one’s domestic attention “Home is where the heart is.”
Evidently, with a thin line separating the meanings of the two words, home is largely perceived to be different from house. A house is commonly construed to be the tangible aspect of the living space – the walls, the roof and the other paraphernalia that goes between the walls and below the roof. The home however, is slightly difficult to define. As late HL Mencken, American journalist and essayist wrote, “A home is not a mere transient shelter: its essence lies in the personalities of the people who live in it.”
At a very basic level, thus, the home is an inextricable part of the person – his home and hearth and happiness are inseparable from each other. Invariably, every person’s vision for the future encompasses a dream home which is a reflection of their personality. There is a passage in Louisa May Alcott’s famous book, Little Women, where the March sisters, together with friend Laurie, discuss their dreams for the future or quite literally their castles in the air, offering a peek into their personalities.
Jo wants a house with “A stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled high with books. Beth would be satisfied with being at home with her parents and playing her little piano. Meg wants a lovely house with nice food, pretty clothes, handsome furniture, pleasant people, heaps of money and lots of servants.”
The many stumbling blocks
As with all building activities, building a dream home too comes with its quota of difficulties —financial and emotional. At the material level, building a home is quite literally like a bird building a nest, twig by twig. Taking a leaf out of the older generation’s book, most parents and parents-in-law, including my own, have some inspiring tales to tell of how they have build their homes in a physical sense, starting with using an icebox when there were no finances to buy a fridge, using a kerosene stove, because there were no gas cylinders, and so on.
My mother-in-law recounts how she would save money just to be able to buy a mixer-grinder, a luxury in those times, or how they got their first TV set after much difficulty.
Apart from the physical, the emotional aspect would naturally then play a very important role in building a home. Here the difficulty is not financial; it is that of according a warm, peaceful, cheerful and welcoming atmosphere to the home. Even if all the creature comforts are present, the maintenance of the home, both in the physical as well as the spiritual plane is where the challenge lies.
Here, my mother’s philosophy is apt – she strongly believes “Come what may, the atmosphere in my home should remain unsullied”. Of course, conflicts and tiffs are a part and parcel of life with the family, but by and large, the environment must remain positive and peaceful. Through all sorts of problems – sickness, death, potentially lifestyle-altering financial crises, she has always ensured that her positive attitude and cheerfulness have seen the difficulties through. Her dream home is probably best described by a line from J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, “His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking, best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.”
Keeping the feel-good factor
Over the years, maintaining the home has been a tough task – requiring constant care and attention, hard work, adjustment with family members, ensuring all needs of every family member are provided for, cleaning so the home is spic and span, regular de-cluttering, avoiding negativity of any sort and so on.
The affectionate atmosphere and jovial ambience is derived not just from the physical or material comforts; it is largely because of the positive vibes that the home exudes. Here, Mother Teresa’s words come to mind – “Spread love everywhere you go: First of all in your own house… let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” They may enter depressed or with a negative attitude, but leave with an optimistic aura.
Explaining the reason for this, she often says that her dream has always been to have a home full of good cheer and happiness. To this end, her attitude of “Work is worship” has paid handsomely. It has helped her give her home loving care and made her provide well for the physical wellbeing and the spiritual health of the home and its inhabitants. It may have been an uphill task, but the results are apparent. The positive energy exuded by the people add to the positive energy in the home – a cycle of love and comfort, where the home imbibes the vigour of its people and the people benefit from the positive vibrations thus absorbed – actual testimony to the fact that the person’s health and wellbeing are irrevocably linked to the home atmosphere.
One may have built a house which may take a defined length of time, but building and maintaining a home is a continuous process, requiring great effort and dedication. Difficult though, building one’s dream home is definitely not impossible – whichever aspect of building a home that one may consider – the material or the spiritual. Both are linked with each other and to the physical, physiological and psychological health of the people staying within.