Last summer my parents sold our family home. We were all ready to let it go and give it over to a young family and let them start their own memories. When my grandmother passed away it was a lot harder to let go of her home and all her things. On a cold March day I went over to help my Aunt clean. We walked into the kitchen and smelled onions and potatoes, as if she had been there cooking all day. We just looked at each other, astonished, and each said, “do you smell that?” Houses and homes take on their owner’s personalities, adopting a family’s habits or a loving grandmother’s cooking style. Even though it may be just four walls, a place to take shelter and comfort, a house becomes a tiny hub of love, pride, and safety from the outside world. I just started reading, The House in France by Gully Wells and was immediately pulled in by her love of this house in Provence. While reading this I have escaped the smoke-filled skies of the desert and am in a delightful Provencal home eating brie and sipping vin watching the afternoon laze by. Here is Gully Wells on returning to her late mother’s house in France,
What is it about a certain house that allows it to take on, as if by some strange process of architectural osmosis, the precise character of its owner? How can a complicated, intelligent human being and inanimate structure, stuffed full of random rubbish, resemble each other so closely that they might as well be twins? It isn’t something that happens quickly, in fact it usually takes decades, and it isn’t universal – sometimes it never happens at all. In my mother’s case the symbiosis was long established and deeply rooted. My problem with returning to the house was not just that it reminded me too much of her but that it also made me angry. How dare it be basking – stupidly, complacently, lazily – in the warm sunlight of Provence, when she no longer could? How could it possibly have had the ill grace to survive her? . . . But once I actually walked through the clackety beads and into the familiar, cool, terra-cotta-tiled kitchen, I realized that I had gotten it all completely wrong. Instead of sadness and fury I felt oddly relieved to have come home to a place that knew me so well. I forgave the house for being alive.