What makes a place feel like home? Is it the freedom to eat breakfast for dinner whenever you please, the smell of your favorite shampoo, or simply the people you share it with? I remember spending childhood summers at my cousin’s house on Cape Cod and I fondly recall all the strange yet wonderful sensations that told me I was far from my own home. For starters, there were vast backyards of running space unlike anything that existed in Boston, the excruciatingly itchy bites of beach flies, and the pruned fingertips that came from afternoons spent in the deep ends of swimming pools. One such deep end belonged to my cousin’s grandmother, and – because back then I found this concept of swimming pools outside of the YMCA let alone in someone’s home particularly exotic – I would plead with my cousin to spend whole days “backyard swimming.”
In these days upon days of swimming we would make up games with beach balls or spend hours pretending we were mermaids, and her grandmother would occasionally bring us poolside saucers of chocolate chip cookies. These cookies were not like the gooey ones my mom made from scratch, but they were nothing like any store-bought cookies I had ever tasted in that they were soft (not crunchy like Chips Ahoy). The cookies were fittingly made by a company called Almost Home, and, as I basked in the smell of chlorine and the company of my cousin while biting into these crumbless cookies, I remember thinking to myself that if I stayed there long enough I could convince myself I was home.
Since my move of a little less than a week ago, I’ve been trying to do a lot of convincing along these lines – trying to will away the fact that I still feel off-kilter in that way that comes from not being rooted in place/routine. Every day one little thing happens that makes me feel a little more at home, though, and this makes convincing a little less necessary as time goes by. The most vivid little inkling of home thus far came last Friday night when my sweet and I stumbled into a sushi joint just two blocks from us. I’ve never lived next door to a sushi restaurant, but there was something instantly comforting about discovering this place – there are only five tables, it is wallpapered in old dollar bills, and the owner makes all the sushi himself behind the bar. I fell in love at first taste with the delicious rolls and the well-kept-secret/hole-in-the-wall nature of the place, and I’m sure it will become a go-to dinner spot for us on lazy nights. So, even though our new place has an exotic swimming pool and I have yet to christen the oven with a fresh batch of chocolate-chip cookies, the knowledge that there’s a nearby nook lined in empty soy sauce bottles, dollar bills, and magic marker scribbles makes me somehow feel almost home.