“A House Is Not a Home,” June 5, 2018

Dear Reader:
I’m taking off this week from writing to move from Las Vegas to California. Thanks to all of you who’ve sent good wishes for the move. You are kind and we are grateful. The following column was written in 2007, soon after we moved to the desert. If I survive this move, I’ll hope to write again next week. Thank you so much for reading. _ Sharon

“A House Is Not a Home,” by Sharon Randall

A house, they say, is not really a home. It’s only a roof over your head. Home is the place where you keep your heart.

We moved into this place last week, my husband and I, with a crew of plumbers and painters and tile setters. It’s the fourth house we’ve shared (just us, not the crew) in the two years we’ve been married. We do not plan to move again soon. This house, Lord willing, will be our home.

Today, for the first time, I had it all to myself. My husband found a necktie and went off to work. The plumbers, painters and tile setters took our money and went off to Hawaii. And I began walking from room to room, arranging old, familiar things in strange new surroundings, hoping to find some sense of home.

Have you ever watched a dog follow its tail, turning in a circle before settling down for a nap? There I was, the world’s biggest hound, trying to settle down. It takes time to feel at home in a new place, whether it’s a house or a job or a marriage.

You can’t hurry time. I knew that, but I didn’t want to wait. (Hounds are known for their noses, not for their brains.) So I tried, in vain, to hurry. A smarter woman might have started lining shelves, but shelf paper tends to make me lose my religion, so I began setting out photos of our family, our wedding, our friends.

Somehow we all looked out of place, like tourists who’d taken a wrong exit off the freeway and were about to get carjacked.

Next, I filled a vase with lilies and set them on the mantel; they smelled like wet paint. I tried arranging a few family keepsakes in the dining room: A bowl that belonged to my late husband’s grandmother; an earthenware jug my mother used for iced tea; a plastic deviled egg tray my cousins bought at Dollar General and gave us for a wedding gift.

Nothing seemed to fit.

Finally, I grabbed a broom and went out to do what women in my family have done for generations to claim any place as their home, be a mansion on a hill, a mill town shack, or double-wide tornado target: I swept the porch.

It’s a chore seldom done at any place you don’t call your own. You might, for a friend in need, wash dishes or fold laundry. You might even look after her toddler, if she is sick as a dog with the flu. But you’ll not likely sweep any porch unless it belongs to you.

I swept it. It felt good.

I was finishing the walk when something buzzed past my ear: A black-chinned hummingbird, tiny and gray, hovered mid-air, checking me out, then zoomed down to drink at the fountain.

“That’s my fountain,” I said, “but you’re welcome anytime.”

Home is the place where you offer hospitality. Where you can put your feet on the couch, your coffee on the table and turn your TV up too loud, until your wife asks you kindly to turn it down.

It’s a place of peace where you welcome family and friends, hummingbirds and strangers.

It’s where the sun sets every evening and rises each morning in the eyes of someone you love — even if only in the eyes that look back at you from the mirror.

A home is not a house; it’s a warehouse for memories; a safe house for your heart; a half-way house for your hopes and your dreams. And sometimes, it’s a porch begging to be swept.

I might need a bigger broom.



  1. A home is a place where you put your legs up and watch tv, yes it is so true. But when you are a foreigner, you look for something else. Though we live in the US for last 18 years, we feel our home is left behind like we are still lost in a now country. Nothing is more like a home where we lived for 43 years of our life. Best wishes for a new home in California.

  2. Steve Perry says

    I have been reading your columns as sent from my mother-in-law for several years. I love your writing. Unfortunately. we lost that saintly woman last year. I just found your webpage and will see if I can subscribe to you myself. Be happy in the Peoples Republic of Tax and Waste California!

  3. Linda Myers says

    Sharon, my prayers are with you and your husband as you move to California. May the Lord bless you with much happiness and good heath in your new home. After a month in my new location, I’m beginning to feel “at home.”

  4. Roberta Little says

    I have been smiling ever since you announced you would be moving back to Monterey! All your friends welcome you and Mark with open arms. I have retired from The Herald after 27 years and I love sweeping the porch (and driveway too). My daughter lives in the area and we spend every Monday evening together, cooking dinner and laughing and talking. I sweep that porch prior to her arrival every week and I love it. I’d also love to see you read some of your columns like you did years ago here. Welcome home!

  5. Kate Sciacca says

    Wish I had read this seven years ago when we settled into the Carson Castle… (ok…. maybe not what Meghan and Harry have…) – it was such a struggle to make a “one week old” house feel like we’d lived here for 24 years ;-). But it comes with time – and with the stories that are written in the new digs 🙂

    But you are blessed to be moving into an old “new” place – where the memories will ebb and flow like the waves a few blocks away. Drink it all in, take your time – we can wait 😉

  6. June Boswell says

    Thank you Sharon I’m like Elaine I relate to you Every story you tell I tear up a little But in a good way ? please keep writing I enjoy your stories so much

  7. Davey & Dan says

    PG is home and we welcome you back with open arms Sharon and Mark! Your lovely old house will be a “Home” once again. It will be good to have you back.

  8. Elaine Mccaffery says

    Another great column even if it is one you’ve wrote before. I like it. I always relate to you. I’m divorced and have lived with my new love for 16 yrs. now. And I keep trying to make this house a home. Harder the 2nd time around. Old ghosts from both our past relationships. But , I keep sweeping the porch. Lol . Have a safe and happy trip , and best wishes to you and your hubby on your move back to be with family. Looking forward to reading your insight, and wisdom .

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