The Brown House

Photo: Sana Rehan Butt

The Brown House

By: Sana Rehan Butt

25th of April 2022

“The sun at home warms better than the sun elsewhere.” – Albanian Proverb

Do you remember the first house that you ever lived in? My son who is almost ten years old now still remembers the first house that he lived in. He was four years old when we moved out of that house but to this day, he calls it the “Brown House”, because the gate to that house was brown. He would run in that house with his younger brother, whom he welcomed in that house when he was born, teasing him with his favorite toy. He has a recollection of the said naughty brother dumping a bowl of spaghetti on his head and laughing hysterically. He recalls eating orange ice lollies with his cousin in the month of June to beat the heat. He remembers feeding the birds on the porch and our dog, Diesel, that we had who would bark at the strangers at the gate. It was his way of protecting us but also just greeting them in his own way. My son remembers his room filled with toys of all sorts. Over the years, from time to time, he asks me about that “Brown House” and it’s heartening to see that he has happy memories associated with that house but somewhere, I sense a longing in him to revisit it, perhaps to freshen his memories.


I have lived in more than nine different houses in three different continents so far. Have I always had a home in those houses? Some of the houses I have lived in, although for years, could never become a home for me. They sheltered me, protected me, yet could never become a home. I was never at peace in those houses. A home, for me, is a special place, a certain smell – it is made up of people whom you love and who love you back. The noises, the steps, the familiar creak in the stairs, the tap at the sink, which you know turns a certain way to give you warm water, they all make up a home.


It isn’t always easy to leave a home behind or make another house your home. Some memories are too fragile to be boxed up in boxes and move from one place to another, yet we move, to make new ones. The people you meet along the way entwine in your life, some forgotten rather quickly, the others remembered for a very long time. In a span of few years, I have learnt to not “love” a house as much as a “home”. My home is the memories, my tiny humans, a few tidbits that move with me. Some days, I long to settle in a place I could call my forever “home” but for now, I am happy journeying through, exploring the different places and at the same time, learning about myself.


The “Brown House” still stands, housed by others, making their own memories, perhaps turning it into a home. What makes a house a “home” for you?  

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