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< Echoes of Memory

Home Sweet Home

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By Peter Gorog

I am an old man. I just turned 79. During my life I have lived in many places but only a few of them would I call home.

Currently my wife and I are in a self-imposed quarantine, living with my daughter Laura’s family while this crazy coronavirus is bringing the whole world to a complete standstill. I gave up my cozy home of the past 36 years, so another one of my daughters, Ilana, who came back from Israel a couple of days ago can live in temporary post-travel isolation. 

Laura offered my wife and me their nice guest room on the second floor, but I chose the basement room with a much better bed. The room does not have windows, and in order to take a bath, I have to climb to the second floor. I don’t have a private office space. Their pantry and refrigerator are not as well-stocked as our own. On top of everything, I have to watch Sesame Street day in and day out with my granddaughter who is 18 months old. I don’t have anything against Elmo and Cookie Monster. I love them even after I had to watch them endlessly when my own girls grew up. In spite of all this, their house is among the very few I would call home.

My first home was the apartment my parents rented when they got married. They had been married for four years when I was born. By that time my father had already been called up for service in the labor battalions for Jewish slave labor during the Holocaust. I have no memories of my mom, my dad, and me together in that apartment because my father perished in the Holocaust. My mom and I were forced to leave our home when I was three, and we lived in various places for almost a year. I would never call any of those places home. When World War II was over, we moved back to my parents’ apartment without my father. Nevertheless it was my favorite home for the next 23 years until I got married.  

Four years after I came to the United States, I fulfilled the American dream—I became the owner of a five-bedroom house. Actually only a co-owner with a bank until I paid off my mortgage. My friends thought I had lost my mind buying a house with five bedrooms when I was over 40 and still single. Yes, it was just a house and not a home until I got married again, and we populated the house with five girls in addition to the daughter I had from my first marriage. 

Last year we had a chance to reclaim my childhood home in Budapest. My wife and I spent a lovely summer vacation there. The apartment is sparsely furnished with my parents’ old furniture, and though my mom and our children were not there, it felt like a home for just the two of us.

So, what makes a place of residence a home? It is certainly not the “location, location, location” as your friendly real estate agent tries to convince you. A nice piece of furniture, a state-of-the-art bathroom, and an ultramodern kitchen can make you feel cozy and comfortable in a house, but they would not make me call that house a home. For me, it is the people who inhabit the space that transforms a house into a home. I would rather live in a hut with my family than in a palace with strangers.

Tags:   peter gorogechoes of memory, volume 13

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