The Inner Workings of My Mind

Maybe It Really Is Just a House

With Hurricane Irma recently devastating a large portion of the Caribbean and parts of Florida, it’s easy to view the catastrophic pictures safely from your unaffected area and empathize with those who lost everything. It’s also easy to say things like, “Your house is just a house” or “Lives are more important than things”.

So, when Governor Rick Scott made similar statements a few days before the hurricane hit our state, I wanted to shove cake into his mouth, Tina Fey style. My thoughts went something like this:

“Easy for him to say.  He probably has multiple homes. And if any of those homes are wrecked in this storm, they will probably be the first to be fixed. Someone should shove a piece of cake in his mouth just to shut him up.”

Then the next day came. With reports predicting a Category 3 or 4 for our area, I was faced with the decision of hunkering down or evacuating. I thought hard about the pros and cons of each, and eventually decided to leave. But here’s the confusing part. After making that decision, I realized that I never once worried about or felt sad about the possibility of potentially losing my house or the stuff in it. I called my dad and asked him if he thought it was weird that I wasn’t too concerned about the house (he said no). And that’s when I considered that maybe I was too quick to judge our Governor’s statement. Maybe a house really is just a house.

Although, it might be easier to say this now because I didn’t lose anything. But as I packed for our spontaneous road trip, I had to make quick decisions on what was important and what wasn’t. I didn’t stop to ponder about the good ol’ days in our home. I packed…quickly. And all I wound up bringing with me were my kids, my husband, our dog, some inappropriate clothes for weather that I did not anticipate while packing, and my work laptop (because, ya know, I’m dedicated). All of the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years meant nothing to me when choosing what went into the suitcase. And the walls that have sheltered us for nine years, where my children have spent most of their lives, where I’ve entertained friends and family, didn’t even cross my mind as we drove onto I-95 Northbound.

You see, I made peace with the potential of losing everything. And to my surprise, it was much easier than I expected. After truly thinking about my life in this house, I recognized that I’ve been able to make memories here and in many other places without getting emotionally attached to the structure I was in at the time. For instance, my oldest daughter was born in a house in New Jersey.  My youngest daughter was born in a house in Texas. On vacations, we’ve stayed in houses and hotels and bed and breakfasts, creating memories as we went along. And here’s the thing-throughout all of these life experiences, we never took the structures with us.

I’m not saying there isn’t sentimental value in a home.  Sure, there is. But if you are about to encounter a devastating situation like a hurricane, remind yourself to dig deep to come up with the answer to why these walls mean so much to you. I promise you that, like me, you will also come to the conclusion that it’s not the walls that are making you sad.  It’s the moments that you had inside of them with the people you love most. And lucky for us, those moments are still alive inside of us.

It turns out that a home doesn’t house all of your memories.  Your heart does.