Our Houses have always been important places but they have become even more essential during the last year. In the beginning of the pandemic, a famous German consulting agency invented a hashtag that has been used a lot in Germany since the first months of the pandemic — #wirbleibenzuhause (we stay at home). Many people in Germany still use the hashtag because the pandemic is far from over here. For months now, our homes have become the most important places of all, where many of us pass most of our time, working and spending free time, taking care of children, cooking, being lonely, crying, making love, shooting movies, making music. Everything happens within our own four (or more) walls.
That is exactly why today I would like to publish the text I wrote about understanding the House itself, as a social and personal structure, a place that belongs to oneself, as a private and public space, and as the most important place for the past year. I wrote this text in March 2020, when I was in the house of my boyfriend’s parents in the countryside, where we fled to in the first month of the pandemic.
When I think of the place where I was born and grew up, I see three Houses:
The first is the House, built by my great-grandparents’ hands, with a porch and blue shutters. This House is spacious and cool. My grandparents live in this House by the rules of their grandparents. There is a cat in this House, the urge to pet (or grab her tail) lifted me off my feet for the first time. Yes, in this House I learned to walk and walked its expanse. There is a rug on the wall in one of the rooms, and all the pictures in this House are against this motley rug. This House smells of greenery from the yard. It appears in my mind in its spring or summer state, never in winter.
The second House is an apartment with massive milky white closets and a bed, with curtains to wrap yourself in and become a bride (for a second, as a kid), with two balconies, one of which had my childhood swing on it. The house my grandparents still live in today. It used to smell like wood (one of the balconies is lined with wood). When the wood got hot, the whole apartment smelled like it. The new smells have replaced the old smells — now there is the smell of borscht, pies, and, occasionally, Carvalol.
The third House is a new House, a spacious apartment. I lived in it only a few months, and then I moved to Germany. In this House — my teenage room, my most favorite memories, my favorite cat and my dear mother. I return to it every year when I fly home. It smells clean, it’s bright and has a very beautiful view from the kitchen window every day, all depending on the weather. That’s where I started writing, that’s where I learned for my school exams, that’s where I came home to after my first night of dancing. That’s how it was.
My House is not just mine now, it’s ours and our cat’s. Our House is a small rented apartment in Berlin. The first one on its own, the first one not in a dormitory, the first one in Berlin. As I write about it now, I’m very proud of my House. Not only because it’s so difficult to find an apartment in Berlin in two months, not only because it’s close to where I work and study, but because I realize this is my Home. It has beveled walls and windows on the ceiling. It’s under the roof itself, close to the sky, to the sun and to the rain. You lie in bed and see a piece of sky. In this piece of the sky are airplanes.
The House has stairs to the second floor. The Germans call this space a gallery because it’s narrow, but there’s room for guests and for books. It is on another level of height. From the gallery you can look at the kitchen from a different perspective. The Germans call it the Vogelperspektive, the perspective of the birds. I write this and think, “Very metaphorical. Guests really do look at our lives from a different perspective, the perspective of birds.” This House smells of new beginnings, delicious recipes and, when I write my term papers or essays, simmering thoughts. In our House, the bed is almost on the floor and there are no closets. It’s great to wake up in.
Unfortunately, I’m not in our House for a while now, but in the House my loved one grew up in. It would be very interesting to describe it here, but it is a House he should share, not me.
The next house I think about is the House that will become my children’s Home. Describing it is a responsible task. Let it have big windows, a terrace or a balcony, let it have pets, and let the kids make messes playfully. Let it be spacious and warm. For everyone — and for guests, too. And let all perspectives be present in this House. And conversations in several languages will be heard. Let it be so.