Feb 20, 2016

Feeling home is about locking doors

I don't do dinners - it would scare my last remaining friends away. I learned that it is only me who strongly believes in my cooking-skills (but hey, I think it's great food!).
How lucky I felt to be invited to a lovely get-together involving professionally prepared food recently. The host carefully arranged his guests at a number of tables, making sure that nobody sat close to anybody they knew. As he is really great with people it worked wonderfully and nobody froze in desperate silence with a featherbrained smile on her face.
Clamped between a huge greek-embassy-woman and a romantically active bundle consisting of an artist and her Argentinian Tango-wife I stared straight ahead and so got to listen to an architect I would have never met otherwise. He was as passionate about his job as the girls were about 'Tango' in its amazingly varied physical representations. It was clear that he was not interested in making money by simply arranging concrete around people.
He cared about the concept of 'feeling home' in a very general way. Central to 'home', he said, is the certainty of having protected spaces. When you build a house you build walls not only to support the roof, but to create quiet corners and private spots. A cellar, a workshop in the basement, some hidden reading-space in the attic, the safe-haven behind the fridge (for your cat, not you, silly!). That is why some of the amazing modern lofts look breathtakingly good on paper but you would never want to move in (and if you do, you get a speed-divorce).
In a house the protected spaces are marked by walls made of solid matter. But in a home there are additional lines and boundaries non-verbally negotiated between the residents. In an understanding environment they are lines of respect (my sofa, your armchair, her sunny spot in the living-room, his pile of newspapers on the floor...); in a hostile environment they are lines of fear. Some of those lines and boundaries can change frequently while others are rock steady. The better the social sensing of the partners the smoother and more natural the adaptation to the flow of the lines, their acceptance and allowed transgressions.
It is the sensing and quiet accepting of borders and closed or even locked spaces that is the big sign of trust and understanding that makes your house your home.
As if to prove the point this eery couple that kept an eye on one-another the whole evening, walked by, smiling their rehearsed smiles. Earlier they had proudly proclaimed that they were so close they even share one email-address. The architect would shiver at this screaming sign of mistrust.
I just stopped short of asking them if they had glas-walls around the loo. Maybe no. But I am sure there is no key.
They have no home.