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A Place to Han​g Your Hat -- to Call 'Home'

April 30, 2009 By:
Mara Sokolsky, JE Feature
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Come July, my husband and I may be wandering the streets in search of a home. But it's not because of the economic downturn.

It is the result of deciding, two years ago, to downsize when our youngest went off to college. We promptly sold our house, rented half of a large duplex and have been extremely happy in this empty-nester arrangement. But sadly, we were just told by our landlords (who live in the other half of the duplex) that they're selling the whole shebang and moving to Washington, D.C.

So, the house is on the market. We don't know who the new owners will be or if they'll continue to want us as tenants.

We can always find a new rental. But the thought of packing up again has made us think about space, comfort and aging.

If you own your own home, there's not much of an issue. You're familiar with the space, you're used to the house's quirks, and you've accumulated as much "life stuff" as your storage allows.

If the house served you reasonably well during child-rearing, then it should serve you once again with the periodic addition of sons and daughters-in-law and, God willing, grandchildren.

My husband and I are taking a different Mid/Yid track. Wearied by the responsibilities of home ownership, we're looking for nice spaces to occupy where we don't panic every time something breaks.

When we settle anew, what will be the most important components of our living space? What is negotiable vs. non-negotiable? And how do we continually make a place haimish?

First off, we display the pretty things we've acquired. An advantage to being a Mid/Yid is that we've had time to travel, and not necessarily on a shoestring budget as we did as college students. Objects from our sojourns, from craft fairs, from unknown artists, even from our own hands make a home colorful and unique.

We keep out some carefully selected wedding presents and heirlooms, too. Each person we associate with a particular object is a permanent and cherished, though invisible, presence in our midst.

For my husband and I, entertaining is important. The right setting for our dining table will be more paramount than a place for our TV, sound system or computer. Yet everyone is different. What nurtures you should have prominence in your dwelling.

As we age, it also seems that we crave creature comforts more. As young in spirit as I like to feel, I really don't want to share a bathroom with lots of people. And though heating costs have risen, I believe that at this stage of life I've earned the right to crank up the thermostat and stay warm.

When I met my husband, I'd already lived at six different addresses since graduating college. It seems to be my karma, because we've since moved together seven times more. So I've had some practice deciding what's worth tossing and what's worth carrying from home to home. I've also had some practice figuring out how to make an inviting space.

In the end, it's rarely the size or price of the home that matters. A happy home can exist within the confines of any measurement, and with any number of inhabitants. The main criterion is the haimish quotient of your living space -- that it's a place to hang your hat and feel at peace.

If we have to move this summer, so be it. We pretty much have it down to a science as we hang up pictures, spread out our rugs and place well-loved objects on various countertops. The first guests will come for dinner, fresh flowers will grace the table, and once again, we'll be home.

Mara Sokolsky is a freelance writer living in Providence, R.I. E-mail: sokolskaya@cox.net.

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