When I was a kid, my mom sometimes babysat for friends and neighbours, and I would often tag along. But I felt uncomfortable in a stranger’s house, surrounded by unfamiliar walls and furniture. But I can still picture my mom, ensconced in a big armchair, feet tucked underneath her, bathed in the soft glow of a floor lamp. An end table at her elbow was arranged with the accoutrements of her life: ashtray cradling a cigarette, its thin tendril of smoke lazily swirling upward; bottle of Pepsi; eyeglasses; paperback. In her lap, an armless sweater lay tethered by a string of yarn that led to a knitting bag at her feet. She looked like she’d been sitting there for 50 years. She had made herself at home.
Some people can just inhabit a place. They stride into a strange room and instantly absorb it, melding into it as if they were born and raised there. When we first embarked on this unconventional lifestyle six years ago, we found ourselves in many strange rooms. And, like my younger self, I didn’t always feel comfortable. But over the years, with each return, the rooms lost their strangeness. I found myself becoming more like my mom: occupying these places with increasing ease, imprinting my energy onto the now familiar rooms, making them my own. I’ve finally learned that home is not a place, and it’s not just where you lay your head. Home is an emotion. It’s a feeling of warmth and welcome, of comfort and safety, love and laughter. Woven together like an armless sweater, those emotions create cherished memories that are relived with every return.
We’ve been lucky to have met and befriended so many wonderful people who have made us feel welcome, opening their doors to us like we were family, inviting us to come any time and stay as long as we want. We used to joke that, having sold our own home and stowing away all our worldly possessions, we were, in essence, homeless. But that’s not true. (And certainly not fair to those who really don’t have a safe place to lay their head.) We’ve come to realize we’re not homeless at all. You might say we’re “home-full”. We have many homes, those with our blood family and those with our pet-sit families.
So, as we wind down another year of adventures in pet-sitting, we extend a heartfelt thanks to our many awesome “families” who entrusted us with their “kids” and their houses this year, and who have made us feel at home.