When I was a little girl I used to dream of living in a big home with beautiful and ornate furniture, a sprawling yard and a cozy porch. I imagined myself drinking warm tea in the winter, sitting in my breakfast nook, watching the snow falling outside my window. In the summer I would lounge in a big rocking chair on my deck, sipping homemade lemonade while my children ran through a sprinkler in our yard.
Today I am 26-years-old, I have been married to my college sweetheart for nearly five years, and we have two young children. Oh, and we live in a basement apartment.
I chose to marry my husband Daniel, at 21-years-old, with barely a dime in the bank. Daniel was studying to become a youth pastor, and we lived in a small 400-square-foot married dorm. Our first year of marriage was one big party. I made my husband is favorite home-cooked meals, served in our tiny two-seater kitchen table. We’d snuggle in bed, our alarm clock was the screaming children below us – the university’s on-campus daycare was housed beneath our feet.
Shortly after our first anniversary Daniel and I welcomed our daughter, Penelope. My husband accepted his first job offer, and we eventually moved to a new home in a new city. It was a one-bedroom basement apartment with marble counters and Berber carpet. Still, I longed for a home to call my own, and the breakfast nook with the picturesque view.
Nearly five years later, and Daniel has a new job in a new city, and we are celebrating two years in a new basement apartment. Our home is above ground, and has big windows and spacious rooms. Yet, my heart has still felt discontent. We do not own this home. The area that we live in is very expensive, and the possibility of owning in the near future is very slim. As our children grow, I wonder how I’ll explain to them their unique home, and whether their friends will notice.
Recently, Daniel and I decided to invest some money in our current rental. For a while it’s felt like this home was just a holding cell, while we wait for better, more permanent things. Our furniture is sparse, and cheap. Nothing feels truly cozy or homey.
When we first moved in we decided to make our mark on this house. We selected bright colours for the walls, and felt joyful as we covered the blank space with vibrant shades of our choosing.
One of our new purchases has been a solid maple table, built by a Mennonite family sixteen years ago. It has already been loved by a previous family – many memories have been made around this sturdy and well-built piece of furniture.
When my husband brought our new kitchen table home, our children celebrated with contagious excitement. They jumped up and down, claimed their chairs, and asked for a glass of warm milk. We all sat down together, a family of four, and enjoyed a moment together at the table. I looked around at Daniel, and our two happy daughters.
Our new table felt solid, like it would withstand many years of warm milk at bedtime, casseroles at dinner, and homework at the table afterwards. I saw my children growing up around our permanent dinner table, and my worries about the actual home we lived in slipped away.
After my children went to bed I sat quietly with a cup of tea, looking outside at the snow falling, creating a blanket on the frozen ground. I ran my hands along the smooth finish of the wood, and said a silent prayer for our family. I whispered words of gratitude and praise to God, for opening my mind and heart, and giving me peace and contentment.
No matter where we lay our head, I pray it’s a place of comfort, peace, and refuge. I pray that we focus on the people in our homes, not the things. I pray we care more about the words that fill the space where we live, and not the knick-knacks. I pray we are thankful for the home’s we’re given, and not envious for the one’s we don’t have.
Perhaps my girlhood dream of a breakfast nook will never be realized. But, I still had my greatest dream gifted to me: my family, to share memories and a home with, around our sturdy wooden table.