Celeste Headlee, The Takeaway
Celeste Headlee, is a former co-host of The Takeaway.
This week, as we inch closer to the holidays, we wonder about home. What is it? Where is it? And what are the essentials, the bare minimum to make a place home? It's a complex question for me.
The image of home is a changeable picture for me. I lived in the same home through my 18th birthday, and the smells and textures of my childhood home are still familiar. I can imagine the bumpy green carpet of the hallway; imagine sliding down that long staircase without hitting the banister and relaxing on the fuzzy orange bean bag while watching “The Love Boat.”
That house on Preciados Street in Mission Viejo, Calif, fits all the stereotypes of a typical, privileged suburban American upbringing.
But that home was not particularly happy. I had what can only be called a dysfunctional family life, not in the cute way, so it was my grandparents' homes that I most associate with feelings of love and comfort. For the children of broken homes, the childhood house is not what we want to think of as home.
For people like me, adulthood means being able to choose your home, to craft a space the way you want to, to choose the people that visit there. And because I've moved so much, that's less about the space itself than it is about the things and the people in it.
I've lived in transit for much of my adult life. Shuttling between universities, getting a new dorm room every year, changing jobs and cities, and looking endlessly for a better apartment, then finally buying a house only to move to New York two years later. I've moved 10 times over the past decade. That means my 12-year-old, Grant, has moved almost every year of his life.
“I mean we think of, with fond memories, of each home as what we enjoyed in that home and I enjoyed the people I came to that home with and my electronics," Grant says.
And my 15-year-old step daughter, Amber, has moved nearly as often.
“I've moved approximately seven times, state-wise. I've lived in 15 different houses and have gone to 11 different schools,” she says.
For people like us, it's not about the walls, the floors or the windows. It's about the rituals.
I cook a somewhat elaborate dinner for my family every night, with just about every ingredient made from scratch. That process of simmering fresh tomato sauce or pork chops brining in buttermilk — those are part of home for me: Breakfast in bed on birthdays and thunder cake during lightning storms, homemade chicken noodle when someone is sick.
Kids wandering into the kitchen to ask what's for dinner, setting the table, excitement over garlic bread and dismay over broccoli — the daily dinner ritual where we all sit down and break bread together — that's home for me. We may have five different sets of dinner plates because a couple get broken every time we move, but in my house, the conversation is lively and the food is delicious.