An Altar

Maybe because it’s been so frigid out this winter that I have been thinking about a housewarming - or lack there of in my case.

I have lived in my house for 16 years. I have loved, lost, laughed, formed bonds, broken bonds, broken bread and drank wine here.

I’ve rested and relaxed and renovated my way into creating my space in my home. And, I’ve never held a housewarming.

The word “housewarming” originated in the days before central heating. When someone moved into a new house, guests would bring firewood and build fires in all the fireplaces and offer more firewood as gifts.

Today, a housewarming party is usually held in short order of settling in. The party is an occasion for the homeowners to present their new digs to their friends and family. Sometimes guests bring celebratory gifts - not usually firewood.

I’ve always wanted to host a housewarming - because I like parties and I like sharing the things that matter to me with the people who matter to me. And, because I can’t think of a better reason to celebrate than for sheer hospitality. I never hosted my housewarming - the timing never seemed quite right and I couldn’t choose a suitable ritual.

The word “home” evokes sentiments of gathering and sharing and experiencing life with loved ones. It is somehow more dear to us because it’s the exact opposite of a “house,” which feels so nondescript and cold - no fires burning there.

During my growing up, my family moved a few times. I always thought of home as wherever my parents were calling home. We were a tight family and it mattered not the geography or the shelter as long we were together.

During and after college, I moved around quite often - wanderlust. I’ve lived in a tent, apartments, rented houses, hostels, dorm rooms and I’ve called each of them home whether it was for days, months or years.

Susan Clayton, an environmental psychologist, says many people regard home as part of how we define ourselves. Clayton says this is why we do things like decorate a certain way and take care of our lawns. Our homes become an extension of us.

My home is my bricks & mortar touchstone. My home is where I celebrate, grieve and anticipate alone and with those I love through both old and new rituals. My home is my indoor sacred space. My boundary for me and the outside world. This home stands as my reminder of all that I have and all that I need to share with others.

I’ve decided the perfect housewarming for me.

In the spirit of the travelers to Jerusalem to place prayers in the foundation Solomon built for God’s first brick & mortar church - I am going to write my gratitudes and my wishes and my prayers on tiny pieces of parchment and slip them into the foundation of my home. Not because I regard my home as church, no.

My home is my altar in the world.