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by Lauren Signorelli

This is the house, the house I still associate with the word home. Decades later, and I am here again, staring at the brown door that had once been painted red and the green shutters that were never there.

They took away the bushes out in front I used to hide in, and the crab apple tree out back has been cut down. And as I look on, I can see why we had to move once my brother was born. This house is tiny. The paper says it’s barely over 800 square feet. But it never felt that small, not in my childhood eyes, not even in my memories. Just barely a house, that’s what the real estate agent had warned. Just barely a house, but not to me.

In this house before me, I built cities adorned with wooden skyscrapers and busy roads for my dolls to thrive in. I slayed dragons and saved myself from the lonely tower. I became the jungle queen, and tamed the lions and tigers that threatened to eat my parents. I climbed mountains made of cushions and swam seas made of sheets. I lived, and I conquered.

In this house, I lost eight teeth and broke one arm. I stayed under covers with a flashlight and a book, losing myself in enchanting places. I hugged my dad before business trips and snuggled in with my mom late at night. I ate home cooked family meals and shared the stories of my day that were accepted with tender smiles. I grew, and I felt loved.

In this house, I lost a rabbit but gained a dog. I got punished for punching Kevin in the nose, and had to apologize. I watched my father yell over bills, and my mother search for work. I forgot to read a book and flunked my first test. I told Brittany I never wanted to be her friend again, and then took it back the very next day. I met failure, and I learned.

Outside this house, I climbed the big trees of our back yard and sang songs to the birds overhead. I made crowns of flowers and wands of sticks. I hid in bushes, observing the world with wide open eyes. I chased fireflies under a blanket of stars, and twirled under the spotlight of moonbeams. I explored, and I discovered.

Maybe this house is just barely a house. It even holds true for me as I look over it with adult eyes. But this just barely a house is my home, my heart, too immeasurable for square footages or dollar signs. And now it’s all mine.

Lauren Signorelli is a New Orleans girl who loves to lose herself in books, daydreams, and ungodly amounts of coffee.