To me home was never a building. Home was never a single bedroom, a pool in the back yard, or one tree that grew up with me outside of my window. To me, home was a feeling. Home was a warm aroma that would dance to my bedroom, knock on my door, and let me know that dinner was almost done.
I grew up a bit differently than most of my friends. My mother was fourteen when she became pregnant with me, and just turned fifteen when I was born. With no support financially from her family, or from my father, her and I were on our own. My mom is the hardest worker I know. Throughout the years of my childhood, she gained her high school diploma, worked multiple jobs, and still made time to make me dinner at the end of the day. Our meals weren’t anything extravagant, but I was always excited to see what she was making. My favorite meal was what she called “soupa”: shell noodles, tomato sauce, pepper and salt; if we were up on our luck she would add cheese into the mix.
Years move by and so does our location. We lived in twelve apartments and houses by the time I was eight years old. Around this time is when I would establish a summer tradition: going on a plane, and visiting my grandma at her farmhouse in Oklahoma for a couple of weeks. At her home is where I would feel the freest. Her A-frame house overlooked long green pastures, ponds to fish in, trees full of fruit, and gardens full of vegetables. We would spend our evenings in the kitchen together. She would unfold a large cookbook atop a flour sprinkled counter, and my eyes would grow wide from all of the possibilities of what I could create. I learned many lessons over the summers, while at her home. I learned that it takes a large amount of discipline physically and mentally to get through kneading a dough for a sweet French bread, so prepare yourself. I will also always remember the little things like the importance of screwing your Mason jar lid tight when canning homemade jelly, or you will have a big mess to clean up.
As I approached my teenage years, my life style changed again. I finally met my father who had been out of my life for all of my childhood. My relationship with my mom grew rocky and so a decision was made for me to live with my dad and his wife throughout high school. My dad’s house was different from my mom’s in the sense that there was stability. I only lived in one house while I was with them and dinner was served at approximately the same time every day. We all were expected to put our phones away and for the hour that we would eat our dinner, we sat at the same table, discussing our days. This was something new for me; something that I liked. My step-mom and I hardly cooked together, and her meals were mostly made out of boxes from the store, but she opened my eyes to a new way of making a home: through organized community. When I think back on that time, I hear resonating laughter bouncing off the kitchen walls, and see smiling faces across the dining room table flash through my mind.
There are so many things that make a home. A mother that loves you so much that she would stop at no cost to make sure you’re safe and fed. A grandmother who passes down her years of experience to empower you to create anything you set your mind to. A stepmother who makes sure that she establishes time to her children each day so that they feel listened to. Some of my fondest memories in the many homes I inhabited revolved around homemade dinners made by the women who made me. When I left home for college, I took a handwritten cookbook that is filled with all the recipes that made me feel at home. I have shared meals from this book with new friends, and have created organized weekly cooking days with the people who mean most to me. The power of a homemade meal, is what made any house a home to me.