Further Reflections of a Home

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about M.C.’s post from last week, and what home looks like for our family. If you’re creatively challenged like me, it can be daunting to think about decorating, or defining what true beauty actually means. As I glance around our Oxford flat, I see piles of books everywhere, furniture that doesn’t belong to us, really horrible blue carpet, and very little that makes this place ‘ours’. It is difficult to maintain or even define a sense of family identity when everything that surrounds us is not ours.

My husband and I have lived in 6 different places in the 8.5 years we’ve been married. Only one of those places was truly ours; the others were all transition places. Unfortunately for us, when we began our graduate journey, we adopted the “we’re only going to live here for x years, so why bother to decorate” policy. I now realize what a mistake that was.

I know that material possessions do not define us, but what if beautiful things are put into our lives to help us define the environment we live in? What if fresh flowers, photography, beautiful art pieces, or a breathtaking architecture book help us appreciate where we are on this graduate journey? And what happens if we ignore that?

It wasn’t until MC came into my life did I realize how much I missed having a space, or a geborgenheit, in which to rest. After her move to Oxford, I watched her create a little haven for her family, and you know what? When I visit her house now, I am filled with a sense of calm, a sense of rest. Her home is truly a reflection of her family’s identity and personality. She has worked very hard to define what beauty means to her family, especially in this graduate season of life, and has creatively displayed that through the elegance of her little flat. It is home.…but it is her home.

I began to brainstorm ways to make our home a place of rest, wondering how I could incorporate our family personality with our quirky taste in art on a virtually absent budget. All I knew was that I wanted to articulate an atmosphere of happiness, brightness, and laughter, things that had once been very important to me when we owned our first home, as we welcomed friends for dinner, family staying for the weekend, or people who just needed their spirits lifted. I wanted people to feel loved and encouraged upon their arrival and departure in our home. But, I wasn’t sure how to do that.

So, I bought flowers. Not a big deal, but it was for me, because I had not purchased fresh flowers in 3 years.

Then, my aunt sent me this little guy, along with a handwritten note written saying she wanted to brighten our lives and our flat. It did.

But, it wasn’t until last year did I come to realize how one piece of art could completely change our home. My husband and I fell in love with an Oxford artist named Tim Steward. His iconic Oxford scenes moved us, and we sheepishly hatched several ways of procuring one of his drawings, knowing we would never be able to afford one. With a gift lovingly bestowed upon us by our families for finishing a PhD, we now have one of those drawings hanging in our flat. I always marvel at how much it’s changed the room. It represents our time here, memories of forged academic community, the birth of our son, hard work, sweat and tears, the struggles of graduate life.

We began to shape our environment at home, one that did not include bare walls. My husband and I delved into our love of photography, and began to hang more photographs of our son, our godsons, and our family, even though we weren’t allowed to hang things on the wall. Our home began to have a safe feel, a place of familiarity instead of transition, a place we could rest, a place we could imagine being for awhile.

I would by lying if I didn’t stop to say that I do long for the days when the vibrant colors and bold strokes of folk artists that adorned the walls of our first home find their way out of storage to proudly hang in our new home. But, I will be happy for the art that represents and defines one season of our lives to meet the art that represented and defined another season of our lives.

And for me, as I sit in my newly defined place of rest, it is enough. For now.

In this graduate journey, what words would you use to define the environment in which you live?

-Mandy

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