by Nicole Mackowski


Ah, home, let me go home/Home is wherever I’m with you

 -Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros


. . . . .   


For the majority of my life, I did not have a home. I wasn’t homeless, and yet sometimes I imagine it wouldn’t have been much different if I was.


. . . . .   


The Blue House 2000-2004

The first one. My first memories. My mother’s greatest regret.


I don’t remember much of the Blue House. The memories I do have are nothing but picture perfect. It took up two lots on my block, however, it was nothing gargantuan or flashy.  The majority of the property was backyard, leaving plenty of space for my two older sisters and I to run around and play. I can faintly see the blow-up pool in the backyard, my sisters and I with our cousin, splashing around for the short time she’s in town. I can feel the wind in my short golden tendrils as I sit on my father’s lap as he cuts the grass with his riding lawnmower. I can see the stump of the infamous Octopus Tree, the one my sisters loved to climb before I was born. I picture myself standing in the wood-paneled basement watching our beloved King Fish (the oldest, biggest fish we had in the tank) swimming alongside the others. 


And then I imagine the time my cousin sat on the side of our blow-up pool, leaving nothing but a flood of water and a ripped inflatable. I remember my dad selling the riding lawnmower. We wouldn’t be needing it any longer. I see myself standing on top of the Octopus Tree stump, imagining what it must have been like to climb such a glorious tree, how I’d never get the chance to try it myself. I remember driving to my great grandma’s house and watching as my mom placed the King Fish in her tank. He wouldn’t be coming with us.


My parents told us it would be bigger; it would be better. I would get my own room and could even pick out the color myself. They told us we would lose half of the backyard, selling the other property so another picture-perfect family could move in. My mom reminded us that although we would have less room for adventures, we might have new friends to accompany us along the way. My dad was nothing but excited. He told us he wanted to give us what his father never could; a beautiful home with two parents. Everything sounded great, and yet I couldn’t even imagine the catch. They told us we would have to start over, completely fresh. And that’s what we did. I watched as the wrecking ball slammed into the blue house destroying the structure, and all the memories alongside it.


The Blue House. The first one. My first memories. My first lesson: Nothing lasts Forever.


. . . . .   


The Tan House 2004-2012

My Childhood. Beautifully tragic. My father’s pride and joy.


During my time at the Tan House, I remember feeling nothing but admiration for the lovely structure. I loved to slide around the first floor in my socks, practicing my ice-skating routines, imagining the open floor plan the ice and my socks my skates. The family room was always my favorite, with its 20-foot-high ceilings and wall of windows overlooking the backyard. I can see myself sneaking into my sisters’ rooms when they were on the first floor, wishing my room was a little bit bigger. I remember crying myself to sleep the day I realized I would have to leave it all behind.


Although back then I believed the Tan House was my home, I noticed shortly after we left what a nightmare it had actually been. I picture the sterile white walls of the first floor, how my dad refused to let my mom paint. My mom told me she felt trapped, as if the house had taken her prisoner. It left her feeling nothing but numb and unhappy. I didn’t realize until I was older just how cold it was. I remember how I’d felt as I walked down the stairs into the unfinished basement. I would break out in a nervous sweat, feeling as if a creature from the shadows would pull me into the darkest corner, leaving me as nothing but a memory. I understand now that there were more creatures lurking throughout the house, I was just too blind to see them back then.


 No matter how many times my mom tried to tell me.


I remember the night it hit me that we were leaving, I remember the tears streaming down my face as I tried to sleep. They told us we had no other option except leaving. The beautiful structure came with a price, one that was far too hefty for us to afford anymore. It worked out perfectly that my sisters would be leaving for college soon, the oldest one leaving the following fall. So, we got the house ready to sell in the spring. I told my friends that we felt that the house would be too big for my parents and I once my sisters left. I felt the need to shelter them from the reality of the situation. I didn’t want to be looked at in pity. I would be strong through it all. I thought if I imagined myself as strong enough, I’d have no other option than to be anything less.


The Tan House. My Childhood. Beautifully tragic. My lesson: Luxury makes you Blind.


. . . . .   


The Doll House 2012-2018

Growing up. My favorite Doll’s House. Perfection.


I mourned the loss of the Doll House almost as if it were a real person. The Doll House was literally picture perfect, with its Victorian style and dainty white porch. There was no other name greater for what it was, and no other name that could encompass the way I felt about it. I loved that house, and I might even go as far as saying it was where I felt the most at home out of all the others. I remember the morning after we moved. My mom let me skip school that day and I spent the morning singing the song Home by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, with my sister as we put the silver wear away in the kitchen. When I think back on it, it was nothing but a Doll’s House, the perfect image of what anyone and everyone could have ever wanted. It was a Doll House, and yet, I believe it was everything I needed at that moment in my life. I needed that slice of normality, I needed to know how it felt to live in a house that had a heart.


I felt as if I could blame no one but myself for needing to leave. I thought that maybe if I hadn’t had to go off to college in the following fall, we would have been able to stay. And although I know now that this wasn’t the case, a part of me still feels at fault. With my dad moving out to California and starting a new life with a new place to call home, there was no way my mom and I could stayed in our Doll House. So we did what we were good at. We packed everything up and moved, praying that maybe this time we would be able to stay.


The Doll House. Growing up. My favorite Doll’s House. Lesson: If you love something, set it free.


. . . . .   



The smallest. The oldest. The wisest.


As I sit and write this, I look around at the room I’ve always wanted, a place I can call my own. I sit in my beloved accent chair and listen to my vinyl records, the perfect combination for relaxation. I love my room, I love my house and its vintage 60s detailing. I love that I feel at home, however, not in the way that most may consider. I have found that it was easiest to feel at home in the ones I love around me, and in myself. Yes, my house is a part of my home, but it is not everything. It has taken me years to find this comfort and love, and yet I wouldn’t trade that time for anything else. The time it took to discover that place within myself showed me that life is a never-ending battle that cannot be fought without those I love. To some, home is one place. For me, home is spread throughout dozens of people, creating my own perfect place in this crazy adventure we call life.


Now. The great unknown. Lesson: Some of the hardest goodbyes are the greatest hellos.


. . . . .   

Man, oh man, you’re my best friend/ I scream it to the nothingness/ There ain’t nothing that I need

-Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros