"Home" is much more than just shelter, home economist Trudy Rice told a group of about 20 extension homemakers recently at the Douglas County Extension Center.
Mrs. Rice was presenting a family life lesson on "The Meaning of Home," which those attending the session later were to share with their units.
During the morning, she examined the differences between a house and a home and explained how a house could evolve into a home. Participants also shared thoughts and remembrances of their own homes.
A house, Mrs. Rice explained, is bricks and boards; a home is comfort, companionship and serenity derived from the structure's association with family members and material things that link us with other important people in our lives.
THE LESSON'S guide noted certain homes in people's lives exert profound influences on them and it quoted a scholarly paper, "Place and Placelessness":
"There is for virtually everyone a deep association with and consciousness of the place where we were born and grew up, where we live now, or where we have had particularly moving experiences.
"This association seems to constitute a vital source of both individual and cultural identity and security, a point of departure from which we orient ourselves in the world."
The meaning-of-home lesson is based, Mrs. Rice said, on another scientific study that examined emotional attachments to home in terms of personal identity in old age.
The study, "Reflections on Home: Implications for Housing Design for Elderly Persons," was done by Margaret Boschetti, Kansas State University associate professor in the department of clothing, textiles and interior design.
MRS. RICE said some people felt "at home" in every house they lived in, but others only experienced "home" in special houses in their lives. She recalled a duplex she lived in for a time that never felt like anything more than shelter.
Participants' memories of their homes ranged from watching for the postman from a certain window, to special occasions when "the really nice dishes" were used, to displays of treasured family portraits.
Another noted her grandmother's quilts, a second, her grandmother's garden, and a third recalled her grandmother's fondness for reading to her. "That meant an awful lot," she said.
Others remembered "a soap opera" going on at the neighbors, "Mom always in the kitchen," "Mom at the sewing machine," using the parlor only for special occasions and a western Kansas panoramic view.
Several in the group still live in the homes their children were raised in. They said they and their children have special memories associated with those houses.
"DOESN'T IT make you feel good when your kids still want to come home?" Mrs. Rice said.
She noted that during her childhood, Sunday family dinners were important in her home, but today, Sunday evening had become "family time" for her and many others.
"It gets harder and harder to protect that time," she said. "Twenty years from now, what will children relate to (in terms of home)?"
Mrs. Rice said people selected houses to be their homes for different reasons, including convenience, prestige, comfort, opportunities for socialization, privacy, security and economy.
She added it was important not to be judgmental about another person's choice of "home."
Turning a house into a home sometimes can be accomplished with family photographs and other pictures, favorite colors and meaningful furniture, she said, noting most of her own furnishings were treasured hand-me-downs from older family members.
MANY PEOPLE take special things from their former homes, especially "from years ago," she said, and young people often "take their bedroom furniture with them when they leave home."
A home reflects "how we feel ourselves to be, what we are like," she said, explaining that "taking possession of a house" means making it reflect our own personality look the way we want it to look.
"If it's just a house, it's not going to reflect your feelings."
One participant noted, "There are some who put material things" above the more personal considerations, sacrificing a feeling of home. They put "too much emphasis on structure," she said, "rather than on `the heart of the home.'"
Many renters also live in "houses" rather than "homes," Mrs. Rice said. Because their shelter is "not their own," they lack a fundamental sense of identity with it.
She added that not only do people react to the influences of their homes, "but the house reacts in a similar manner to its inhabitants."
People with poor self-images may not keep up their houses as well as those who feel good about themselves, she explained, and those structures, in turn, lack that special quality that says "home."