When I was 5 years old, home, to me, was the house I grew up in.
It was the couch I spilled syrup on when I snuck pancakes into the living room to watch TV, even when my mom told me to eat in the kitchen. It was the door that didn't quite shut all the way or the long driveway that was impossible to drive up when it snowed.
Growing up, I had the best possible childhood, and I am lucky to have two parents who love me and did everything they could to make sure I was happy and healthy.
I grew up in a beautiful, old house, with stairs that led to the ocean and a big porch that wrapped around it. Summers in that house created memories that will stay with me for my entire life.
Winters were cold, but still beautiful, in their own way. Since our old house was built in the 1800s, the wind would find its way through every crack, and I would have to pile on a million blankets just to stay warm. At the time, I hated it, but some days, I would give anything to go back.
If the walls of that house could talk, they would have incredible stories: some good, some bad but most filled with love and laughter.
I used to sit at the end of my long driveway and watch the cars drive by. My mom grew tomatoes, sunflowers and green beans in a garden by the side of the house and hydrangeas surrounded a wishing well in the front.
When I was a little girl, I used to listen to the waves crash against the shore as I fell asleep, and my mom would tell me stories about mermaids in the water. I spent hours wandering the beach below the cliff my old house was built on, searching for sea glass.
At that time, my house, and all that came with it, was what home was to me. Now, though, I know home isn't a physical place. Rather, it's a feeling.
I know home isn't a physical place. Rather, it's a feeling.
My parents have sold that house, and I've driven by it a few times since moving. But it doesn't feel like home anymore, even though everything pretty much looks exactly the same as it did when I grew up there. Nothing has changed but me.
While that old house was a wonderful place to live, however, the only reason it felt like home was because of my family.
Your home isn't a set of walls, a wraparound porch or a garage roof you used to lay on to stare up at the stars. These things can be part of a house, yes, but home is the happiness and comfort you feel when you're surrounded by people you love.
Sometimes, I get nostalgic for my old house up on that hill. You end up missing things you never thought you would.
I knew I would miss the beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean, the big window across from my bed and the many summers I spent running through my yard. But I never thought I would miss the way I never had cell phone service or the fact we didn't have central AC.
Without my family, it's no longer home.
Sometimes, I need to remind myself, even if I could walk up that driveway and live in that house again, it would no longer feel like home to me. I love that house for the beautiful memories it has given me and for being the setting for a beautiful childhood, but without my family, it's no longer home.
What I have learned is, home is not necessarily a specific, physical place at all, but rather, it's a feeling you experience, no matter where you are, when you spend time with people who make you feel loved and comfortable.