As the semester ends, I look out over our little apartment, and I realize how long it will take to pack away all of our inside jokes. Over the course of this semester, we’ve made Newman 101 our home. The furniture has been here since the first day, passed down from years and years of poor college students. But it is more than the furniture or the yellow walls that make this place home. This is our home because we have filled it with bizarre little memories. One day, we’ll reunite and laugh over our random clutter, but for now, it defines home.
The view from our home is bushes and classrooms, but even our windows tell stories. There’s a sticker on the top right part of our window that says, “Hunk a Hunk a Vegan love.” None of us are vegans, but the cafeteria (that has never served vegan food) was giving them away and I found them funny. We took a bunch of stickers and our friends spent the week finding “Hunk a Hunk a Vegan Love” stickers on their backs. On that same window is the word “gullible.” When I was a freshman, I thought it would be funny to hang “gullible” on our ceiling so that when friends would visit, I could say, “‘gullible’ is written on the ceiling,” and it actually would be. This year, simply having “gullible” written on the ceiling was not enough. It is under our coffee table, under a lamp, behind a tapestry, behind a door, in the freezer, and on the window. We tell people it is also behind the television to find out which of our friends are actually gullible.
And that is all just in one of our six windows. In another window sits two solar-powered dancers, an elf and a surfer. A gift from my parents, their randomness watches over the room. Our friends who have recently taken to pounding on our windows to scare us do not seem to be intimidated by the elf and the surfer. Though these dancers sometimes sound like bombs when their pieces click back and forth, they do their part to complete our definition of home.
A Qui-Gon Jinn action figure from Star Wars has been an inside joke between our suitemates for years. Now, he has become a joke we all share. We set the action figure in interesting situations. He’s drunk deeply of the well called hand sanitizer using a coffee stirrer for a straw. He’s hung upside down from the light. He’s suntanned in the microwave, complete with sunglasses. He’s borrowed clothes, and he’s had clothes made for him. He sat propped against Valentine’s Day carnations. Anna crocheted him a beanie. I knit him a scarf. We cut a piece from the newspaper out and gave him a mug with a cat on it. Hipster Liam wished the women of Newman 101 a happy Valentine’s day.
There are three whiteboards in this room. One hangs on the door greeting the outside world, one is on the refrigerator, and one is full of tally marks. The one behind the door with the many marks started as a tally marker for “W.A.B.S.S.” For weeks, our friends tried to figure out what it stood for, and why there were nearly forty marks. Some have figured it out, and some still think it means, “When a boat sets sail.” Below the W.A.B.S.S is the pun game. And beside the puns are the goose calls. Two of our friends used to make a goose sound every time a word that rhymes with “goose” was said. They awarded themselves with a tally point every time goose was called. The best white board game is the song game. Anytime anyone makes someone else sing, the person who sparked a song gets a point. Our home is a musical, complete with gasps of exasperation every time someone sings and scores someone else a point.
One night, after Marco scored his fifteenth point, we decided to count some of our quirks. We have fifteen blankets, and each blanket has a name. One has a wolf on it: wolf blanket. One is covered in cats: cat blanket. One is from Stephanie’s grandmother: nap blanket. One is furry and lime green: grass blanket. We also have thirty one mugs. They come from all over the world: London, Mexico, China, Alaska, and Washington DC. But not all of the mugs are souvenirs from travels. Even the mugs that were simply purchased from the local thrift shop have become souvenirs, souvenirs of snow days and laughter. They are memories of days when all of our friends gathered in our home and we toasted to tea and hot chocolate. Twenty-seven paintings, all handmade, hang on our walls. The lion, our personality types according to Myer’s Brigs, a little girl, five paintings in one bathroom, two in the other, quotes from movies, and so much more decorate our lives.
This does not include the bird whale wind chime, the ukuleles named Jim and Joey, the owl air freshener, the party chairs we pull out more every Thursday for Bible Study, the card table that hosted so many breakfast dinners, the mismatched kitchen utensils, the broken sofa, or the bowler cap we passed around when we all knit together. Though the list goes on and on, it is not the things or the jokes that make this place a home. It is the friendships that the stories represent that make this not a list, but a home.
There’s happiness, here in the room we affectionately call, “the Death Star.” Whether two friends are home or seventeen are gathered, we know love, we know peace, and we laugh. The quirky accessories and traditions we’re building are stronger than the brick walls. They are what make this place a home. We’re slowly packing away all of the memories. The paintings come down. The couch comes apart. The walls start to echo. This will never really be a home to which we can return. New girls will fill this same apartment with new memories. But each of the six girls that live here are taking notes. We’re defining home, and this definition will last for the rest of our lives. On the way, these memories of our quirky traditions will carry us all the way home.
“Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.”