We all have our own stories of home. This series shares those stories from Habitat staff. We'll explore questions like: what does home mean to us? How did we find a stable home? How do our stories inform our work? And how do Habitat's mission, vision, and values resonate with our experiences?
This first story is written by Erin Ahlstrom. She's our Graphic Designer, and has worked at Habitat since 2005.
When I was nine, my family moved to a different state, where my father had been offered a new job. We had barely unpacked the moving van, though, when his new work group dissolved, and the job vanished with it. With no other jobs in his field available in the area, and a limited amount of savings, my father had to return to his previous job and find a new place for us to live, while we remained behind with my mother in a strange place.
Those were the longest months of my life. This was 1989, and though we never went to bed hungry, times were lean. I worried constantly, were we ever going to be all together again? Though we talked on the phone every other day, I missed my dad. I cried often. I was frequently sick. My grades suffered. I spent a lot of time alone. I was the new kid, and no one was interested in befriending someone who was just going to leave again.
Eventually, the house did sell, but there was still no place to return to. Staying with my grandparents, we couldn't get comfortable as guests in someone else's home, no matter how loving. When we rejoined my dad it was into a motel. We lived off fast food, and did our laundry in a damp little room with lots of noisy machines and flickering lights. My brother and I had to share a bed. We were unable to go out to play because all there was around us was parking lot and highway and strangers arguing in the night. We had to keep our little dog quiet, for fear we'd get thrown out.
We moved into our new house on my tenth birthday. What a gift! I remember running up the stairs to pick out my room, which looked golden in the afternoon sun. It was the first time I was able to choose the color of my room, the first time I had a closet that could be a secret retreat with a window that overlooked our front walk. I still remember the view from my window, the safest place in the universe.
From the security of having a stable home came every other good thing that ever happened to me. I welcomed friends in that house. I did my homework at the kitchen table, and spent many happy hours making circuits of our street on my bike. I graduated both high school and then university living in that house; the first in my family to do so. We shared a family hug just inside the front door on the day I married, and a promise that no matter what happened in my life, I would always have a place to come back to.
Today, I work for Habitat, and am proud to tell people that what I do helps other families like my own. I am myself a homeowner, with a daughter who has the same good fortune of a safe, stable, affordable home. I wish that every child could say the same.