If you have ever had the experience of returning to an old “stomping ground” after a significant time away, you can appreciate the experience I had this past week. After spending considerable time away from where I used to call “home”, I returned for a visit. While I’m content and excited about my new location, the familiar surroundings and faces that met me on this last visit were a very welcome sight. While new friends, new clients, new scenery and even new mountains are exciting and filled with new potential adventures, it is always nice to come “home”.
My earliest (coherent) childhood memories are from the earliest days of grade-school. We lived in an apartment in Amesbury, MA filled with lots of similar-aged kids. I have visited that location a few times since those early days and was immediately refreshed with loads of fond memories. Skateboarding down the hill to the lower lot, putting baseball cards in the spokes of the bike tires and running around playing tag and dodge ball until the streetlights came on or until we got the call (via voice, not phone!) from mom.
In a similar way, a visit to the beaches of Wells, Maine brings back memories of our house on Ocean Pines Circle. Dad wearing a pumpkin on his head for Halloween, Ben, our black lab, dragging his entire dog house across the street in the name of “love”, and the awful-tasting orange marmalade sandwiches the baby-sitter across the street would serve to my brother and I for lunch. Even a drive along the street that connects to Ocean Pines Circle brings back a flood of great memories and fond feelings of “home”.
After having been away from where I called home for a significant amount of time, the return was bitter-sweet. The familiar faces brought an immediate smile and a sense of belonging that I had not enjoyed in a long time. The relationships themselves, though altered now by distance, are still strong. I’m convinced that this sense of familiarity has the power to bring a smile to our face and even an easing of present stresses. Even if specific memories are not recalled or old stories not re-hashed, the collective snippets in time, from years of shared experiences, make us feel welcome and provide that sense of belonging and comfort. The “bitter” part of the visit was knowing that in a few days those familiar faces would become memories, only to be re-lived in my mind.
There is no question, that same phenomenon is what gives us that immense feeling of relief, relaxation and melted-away stress when we arrive back to our actual home after an extended absence. Even walking through the front door after a long, particularly exhausting day at the office can bring a smile to your face and cause an immediate relieving of the tension throughout the body. The feeling of being “home” is unequalled in its power to make us feel at ease.
They say our sense of smell has the strongest memory “database”. A smell from 20 or 40 years ago can immediately bring back a very specific experience or location. Whether you are aware of it or not, you and your family have a distinct “presence” in your home. This becomes apparent when, after a long absence, you first open the front door and are met with that familiar aroma.
Perhaps that is why real estate agents are taught to bake cookies or light a “cookie” candle when having an open house or a showing. What better way to encourage an offer on a home than to immediately associate with the buyer’s fond memories of fresh cookies or family holidays. “I have found that lots of people, first-time buyers in particular, really tend to relax a bit when I use scents in my showings,” commented Badger Realty agent Karla Badger. She continued, “It simply helps them feel more at ease and allows them to more easily imagine themselves making this house their home.”
I’ll leave you today with two thoughts. First of all, be sure and appreciate those around you. The next time you see a familiar face in the market or on the street, make the extra effort to walk over and say hello. I promise you they will be excited to see you (unless they owe you money!) and you both will feel better for the rest of the day. The feeling of connectedness we share with friends and family simply cannot be replaced.
Second, just take a minute to appreciate that place you call home. It does not make any difference if your “home” is a 4,000 square foot mansion at the summit of Mt. Washington (wouldn’t that be cool?!) or a camper in the parking lot of a big-box store. Your home is (ideally) your respite from the world and a place to be completely at ease. If it’s not, I encourage you to take a few steps to create this rejuvenating environment for yourself and your family. You deserve it.
I’ll see you on the sidewalk.