Building Our Souvenir Home

The mokki in FinlandWhen I was just a young wife without any children, my husband took me to visit his mother’s homeland in Finland. We toured familiar places where he lived and visited. He shared his favorite food at the train station in Helsinki, grilled makkara with mustard eaten from white paper envelopes as we rushed to our train. He showed me the characteristic arts and design from Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, composer Jean SIbelius, and artist Akseli Gallen-Kalela. He gave me the beauty and solitude of the forests at a mökki on the Kemi River. And I knew when he introduced me to his Mummi, his mother’s mom, it was like he was going home and bringing me with him.

My heart and my cultural sensitivity expanded. I attempted to memorize every piece so I could adopt it into our eventual family’s life. About 13 days into our trip, though, my inspired perspective waned, and I longed for the familiarity of my actual home. I desired conversations without translation and cool water from a drinking fountain. I wanted to replace the foreign lifestyle with the routines I knew.

Our first home in the basement of this houseWhen we arrived at New York’s Kennedy Airport, the environment felt nearly wholesome to my travel-weary body. Another long flight and a short recovery restored me to home. It was nothing more than a basement apartment in an old house, but it was home to us. There I unpacked our vacation purchases from iittalla glass and set a vision of our future home alongside our eveyday reality.

We haven’t taken many far-off adventures since our children were born, but whenever we leave home, I always bring back the souvenir of a wider perspective. Whether we spend a few days camping nearby, cross the country to visit relatives, or travel to another time and place while watching a movie together, my new eyesight gives me insight. The return trip is a journey home again, connecting what I learned to what I will do.

The front door of our homeOur family began like many others, in a struggle between the nostalgia from two childhood homes. While we built on the foundation of these traditions, our individual circumstances and goals also required an expanded vision. I found that when I step outside my own door to seek solutions, the windows of my mind open to receive new truths that I can bring home. Through the years of collecting, displaying and using these mental souvenirs, we have built a home of our own on this pattern of inspiration.

This post is an entry in the April Write-Away Contest at Scribbit.


  1. Michelle at Scribbit
    Apr 7, 2008

    This is so fun to read after thinking about this same subject myself–love the pictures too!

    Now I want to see pictures of your red tower and cube!

  2. TJ
    Apr 7, 2008

    Anyone interested in seeing the red tower on our house can view it here. It is in the center section on the home page.

  3. Julie
    Apr 7, 2008

    What a beautiful post! I loved how you described your travels and the perspective you gained from each trip, big or small. And I also enjoyed your description of the compromises we make when bringing two different “childhood homes” together. That gave me a lot to think about.

  4. Rachel Corbett
    Apr 7, 2008

    What a wonderful piece of writing, that was truly a pleasure to read!


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