“What Makes a House a Home” Scholarship Essay Finalists

by Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Inc. on July 27, 2011

More than forty local students entered our first essay scholarship contest, “What Makes a House a Home?”  The writing talents and insights were inspiring and made it challenging for both the public and panel of community judges to decide the winners.  But winners were chosen, scholarship money awarded and below we share with you the top three essay writers.  Congratulations from all of us at Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts and writing abilities with all of us.

My Birkenstocks and Fuzzy Socks

1stPlace: Tessa Rose Niemer, Olympia

I believe in Birkenstocks, chicken noodle soup, toaster ovens, and the feel of a sweatshirt just warm out of the dryer. I believe in holiday-themed fuzzy socks, the hum of a small room’s space heater, and I believe in the soothing rhythm of rain pattering against my bedroom window. I believe in the fresh-golden scent of pancakes cooking on the Sunday morning griddle and Spongebob Squarepants cartoons. I believe in what makes up my home.
Ever since I was three, I have shared my Sunday morning pancakes and Christmas-themed fuzzy socks with two households. Both were—and remain—vastly different. One belongs to my mother, one to my father, but both are a place I consider home. My father’s cozy apartment remains my haven of peace and quiet, scratched Jimi Hendrix records, really good hash browns, and, I have to admit, the better of the Sunday-morning pancakes. My mother’s house belongs to a quirky artist, scattered crossword puzzles, and lipstick-rimmed tea mugs sometimes filled with either paintbrushes or commonly misplaced reading glasses.
Home is comfort. Comfort is reading in bed while the rain falls on my roof; it’s wearing my “hippie shoes” and sporting ’80’s themed dance attire. Comfort is being true to your personality and having the confidence to be the eccentric dork that no one sees. If home is where the heart is, I’d like to be sure that my home is a place where I can let myself wear Christmas socks in May.
When I was younger, I would often get caught staying up way past the hour of decency reading the most recent book of my interest. This meant using towels to stuff the crack below my bedroom door to hide the light my camping lantern produced—but this proved useless if I accidentally dropped the lantern, causing shivers of sound to reach my mother’s nearby bedroom. I became accustomed to the noise of my mother’s hasty footsteps as she grouchily got out of bed, harshly turning her doorknob as she reached my bedroom in a mere two steps. If she had been going downstairs to make herself a midnight sandwich, her footsteps would have been nimble and pinched as she prodded down the stairs in her one-two one-two pattern. It’s funny how even things as simple as the pattern of footsteps, or the turning of a doorknob, can identify those around you as easily as the familiarity of their voice, or the sound of their body language.
That’s what home is, though. Home is having comfort in who you are; home is being a dork and wearing socks completely out of season. Home is recognizing the pattern of footsteps; it’s freshly cooked pancakes and reading too late. Home is the sound of body language. My home isn’t a singular unit; my home lies between and within two households. A house is where you live—but a home is where your heart is.


None like Mine

2ndPlace: Niya Tawachi, Tumwater

“Here we go. Breathe. Prepare. Brace yourself”, and with that I enter. Instantly every part of my being is overwhelmed. Between the laughter and yelling, I am left to wonder how so many loved ones could cram into this humble space? The air is electrified with the aroma of spices from half the world away and with every breath, my spirit is recharged. In the kitchen filled beyond capacity, pots boil and bubble over while strong and opinionated women yell and compete for the role of head chef. “What are you doing? Move, move, you burn the lamb.” Oh, no, it has begun. While my aunts’ bicker over whether or not more salt is needed, I go outside. I know sliding into a seat undetected is inconceivable when it comes to my family. Still I try, and, again I fail. Being spotted, I quickly run around the back yard kissing everyone in yet another filled-beyond-capacity space. Making it back and collapsing into my seat, I look around the circle. Suddenly, I am engrossed in the stories of past adventures, most of which I have heard more than once.
Tuning out the arguments of a prideful Lebanese family is far from easy, but it is a skill one must develop in order to maintain some form of sanity. It is during family gatherings, amidst indescribable chaos, that I have found myself able to think most clearly and ponder the deepest thoughts. “Loud and vivacious, who are these people?” Many times I have asked myself this question and been left without an answer. It was not until I stopped to listen that I finally realized what I was missing.
“When I was your age, my two brothers and I would take donkey rides down a hill. One time we were coming down the hill when all of a sudden a big rock rolled right past us. Getting to the bottom of the hill we realized the littlest brother had fallen off the back. Turns out the rock was your uncle.” In the laughter that follows my grandfather’s animated childhood stories, I find myself most at home. Home is not the building nor the possessions inside but the people who fill it with life. Without my bickering aunts crammed into a kitchen, the clink of backgammon pieces being thrown around, or the unchanged aroma smelt by generations past wafting through the air, I cannot feel truly at home.

As I listen to often repeated stories of my families past, I no longer ask “Who are these people” for I have found my answer. These people breathe life into the cold surroundings, and they breathe life into me. My home is not simply a building on a block. It is an ever-expanding reflection of the trials and accomplishments of generations. It is my family. It is my home. Constantly moving taking new forms yet always somehow familiar; just as there is no family like mine there is no home like mine.

The Life of a Home

3rdPlace: Kirsten Gertje, Olympia

My home is unlike any other. My family started building it when I was about seven years old and we’re still working on it. Dad, the engineer, had a dream and because nothing can stop him when he puts his mind to something, he went for it. He and my mother designed it to be exactly what they wanted, and with the support, love and help of the family we all built it. It wasn’t always easy. At times it seemed like there was just too much to do, that we would never finish it. But I think that’s what makes my house special. It has kept us together through the process. We all saw what it would become and strove through the rough patches. It’s seen us through laughter and tears, the life and happiness of new puppies and the death of beautiful old dogs. It’s seen us through healings and injuries. It’s seen the hatching of chickens and turkeys and their slaughter for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s seen my vegetarianism and my dad’s hunting hobby. It’s seen the loving embraces of my family and the heated argument which were soon forgotten. It’s seen the good and the bad of all of us and knows us as well as any of our friends. It’s seen our lives.

If a stranger walked through our house they would learn so much about my family. The carpets are covered with dog hair and the kitchen is in need of a little attention. There are books in almost every room and a glimpse of my cat might be caught if you’re lucky. My father’s woodwork, painstakingly varnished and aligned; my mother’s tile, unique and beautifully designed; the random nuts and bolts from the cars, left by my brother; the sound of my sister’s trombone; the books I left on the living room table; the model airplanes my other brother left behind when he went to college; the still-in-progress garage; the five acre yard my siblings and I ventured together as children and the garden we’re planting in it. It all adds up to my family. My father’s perfectionism, my mother’s loving, easy-going attitude, and the three (sometimes four) energetic and unique young adults living under its roof define and are defined by the house we built together. And though at times it seems our differences are on the verge of pulling us apart, in the end it is always the one thing we all share that holds us together: the love that we invested in this house and each other. Mother Teresa once said, “Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.” That’s what my house is to me.

My home is a house and a palace, a residence and a kingdom, a rest stop and a journey. Everything that cannot be planned in a blueprint is what makes my house a home. Life makes my house a home.

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